I HAVE written about Afghanistan a few times lately but this week I do so again as there has been no let-up in the heartbreak for Afghans on the ground and the work I and other Members of the Westminster Parliament have put in on their issues.

I was privileged to meet this week with three Afghans now resident in Stirling. We have been ahead of the curve in accommodating people who have recently arrived here and I was pleased to hear they feel welcome and safe.

They were an engineer, an IT professional and a specialist builder – precisely the skills we need in Scotland. They were concerned about family re-union as many of their family and even friends still in Afghanistan are now in danger precisely because they worked with the allied forces and believed the promises that were made on our behalf.

I have undertaken to represent their worries to the Foreign Office, but also to the UK Home Office as they will now most likely start navigating our own domestic hostile environment of red tape and hassle.

READ MORE: We need better policies than desperate evacuation to help people in Afghanistan

I also liaised with Stewart McDonald, the SNP’s defence spokesperson, to organise a very useful briefing for our Westminster and MSP groups from the Halo Trust, the NGO which has been doing so much to de-mine the country even previously under the Taliban rule before the US-led invasion.

Their real world and real time perspective is useful in helping us to work out in among the thousand things Afghanistan needs where we can focus and be most useful.

I’m concerned most about two things, the new resettlement scheme and getting people safely out of Afghanistan, but also the scale of Covid within the country making an already bad situation worse for those who remain.

The new resettlement scheme announced by the UK Government is welcome, but I’m unconvinced that it will go far enough or has enough detail yet to have much credibility. Obviously it is being set up at pace and many of the officials who will be designing and administering it are themselves in flux having related out the country.

However, Afghans can’t wait. Neighbouring countries have closed their borders, but borders are pretty porous in that part of the world so we will probably see refugee flows soon and they will need support to accommodate them, especially as winter approaches.

Recently arrived refugees from Afghanistan seen at a temporary camp at the US Army's Rhine Ordnance Barracks. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images).

We have also called on the UK Government to assist in delivering Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccines to the Afghan population, either via organisations such as the UN, Red Cross or even Halo Trust. The botched withdrawal has not only left Afghan civilians vulnerable to Taliban reprisals but also at risk of coronavirus as winter approaches.

Reliable numbers are difficult to get hold of for obvious reasons but we do know Afghanistan has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with only three doses being administered per 100 people. With around 40 million people in Afghanistan, this means that only 1.2 million doses have been delivered and the vast majority of the population unprotected.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation warned that there was an “immediate need” to ensure health services can continue providing treatment for Covid-19. Since the Taliban took over, for obvious reasons, vaccination rates have fallen by 80%, according to the UN. While this may be understandable it does not make the crisis go away and winter gets closer every day.

UK contributions to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan have decreased by 76%, from $78 million in 2020 (when the UK was the second largest donor) to just $18m so far in 2021. The response plan was only 37% funded more than halfway through 2021. The UK must significantly increase targeted health care aid support and urgently fund international NGOs to deliver last-mile delivery of vaccines and care before the winter sets in.

There have been commitments by the UK Government to reverse the planned cuts to the foreign aid budget – good, let’s make sure the money goes somewhere useful. There is much to be done and with the news that the EU has allocated $200m of crisis aid there are plenty examples to follow.

There is a danger that as the international media leave or are thrown out of Afghanistan that domestic issues will start to crowd out the focus on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.

We cannot allow that to happen and need to keep Afghans in our thoughts. People are in harm’s way and on Taliban lists because they believed UK promises of protection and worked with the UK, so we owe them.

But we also owe the people of Afghanistan for the chaos we have left them to, we can’t look away now.