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Ben Quilty reaches $3 million raised for UNHCR in Afghanistan

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Australian artist Ben Quilty has reached $3 million in support of the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) work in Afghanistan, matched generously by Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Annie Todd, his co-founder Scott Farquhar and Kim Jackson, and Karen Wilson of the Wilson Foundation.

Quilty’s campaign galvanised the Australian art community with hundreds of artists auctioning off works and over $600,000 in proceeds going towards the fundraiser, including notably Angus McDonald’s Archibald Prize entry portrait of Mariam Veiszadeh ($62,000), Peter Drew’s Real Australian’s Say Welcome original poster screen ($11,000), and an online portraiture class with Archibald Prize winner Yvette Coppersmith ($10,000).

Author Richard Flanagan, who travelled with Quilty through Syria and Afghanistan in 2016, also auctioned a unique copy of his Booker Prize winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North – purchased by Cred Consulting for $20,000 and since donated to the National Library.

The $6 million total, including $3 million in dollar matches, will go towards UNHCR’s Afghanistan operation which is still less than half funded (44%) for needs on the ground supporting millions of Afghans displaced by years of conflict and human rights violations.

“Thank you – 7,000 people have donated to this appeal, its gobsmacking how much money we’ve been able to raise but it’s a dent in what UNHCR need moving forward into this next bitter winter. My arts community, more than 500 of you have donated to this appeal, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and I have never been prouder to be a part of your community,” said Quilty.

This year, as part of the broader UN country team and lead in protection and emergency shelter, UNHCR has already provided life-saving support to over 332,000 newly internally displaced Afghans.

UNHCR continues to have access to all 34 provinces and three-quarters of districts to deliver emergency shelter supplies and relief items into the country through the Pakistani border with the assistance of authorities. Just last week, UNHCR was able to airlift 12.5 metric tons of medical supplies into the country.

In addition to emergency assistance, UNHCR continues its regular programs in Afghanistan with key investments in health and education. Construction is ongoing to establish 19 schools, youth learning centres and a women’s café – as well as nine health clinics with mental health and psychosocial services.

“For four decades, UNHCR has operated in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. Thanks to the generosity of the Australian community, the arts community and notable philanthropists, UNHCR colleagues can remain on the ground in an extremely challenging security environment to deliver protection and support to displaced Afghans,” said National Director of Australia for UNHCR, Naomi Steer.

“UNHCR is also prioritising winter planning and working to ensure the rights of women and girls. Urgent help is needed to continue providing food, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene kits, healthcare, psychosocial support, core relief items and cash assistance.”

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