Human Rights

US commits additional $144 million to aid Afghans in need

By Salaam Times

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A woman and children fill jerrycans with water at the Shahrak Sabz internally-displaced-person (IDP) camp in Herat province on October 13. [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The US government Thursday (October 28) announced nearly $144 million in assistance to those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

"This assistance brings the total US humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region to nearly $474 million in 2021, the largest amount of assistance from any nation," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press statement.

The funding is provided directly to independent humanitarian organisations including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international and non-governmental organisations that undergo extensive vetting and monitoring, the statement said.

The assistance is meant to provide relief to some of the more than 18 million vulnerable Afghans in need in the region, including Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries, Blinken said.

"It will enable our partners to provide lifesaving protection, food security support, essential health care, winterisation assistance, logistics, and emergency food aid, in response to the growing humanitarian needs exacerbated by healthcare shortages, COVID-19, drought, malnutrition and the impending winter," he said.

"To be clear, this humanitarian assistance will benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban, whom we will continue to hold accountable for the commitments they have made."

Blinken thanked host countries for welcoming Afghan refugees and urged them to keep their borders open to Afghans seeking international protection.

"With this new humanitarian funding, we will continue to support our partners in the region with lifesaving assistance and protection services to Afghan refugees, while we continue to support Afghans in need inside Afghanistan," he said.

Chinese, Iranian aid 'insufficient'

The amount dwarfs the commitments made by two Afghan neighbours, China and Iran.

They have been jockeying to offer the Taliban support after the fall of the previous government, but their aid commitments to the Afghan people have been meagre and self-serving, Afghans say.

Just weeks after the Taliban swept into Kabul and toppled the previous government, China pledged $31 million in immediate aid to the interim Taliban government.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the money would go to food, winter supplies, three million vaccine doses and other medicines, but verification of that pledge is impossible as the Taliban now control Afghanistan's financial resources.

Later, China announced it had provided only $1 million in humanitarian aid and pledged $5 million in food and medical assistance to Afghanistan, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Tuesday.

Both Beijing and Tehran have airlifted several small consignments of food commodities, medicines, medical supplies and winter clothing in recent weeks to reaffirm their support to the new rulers.

Yet Afghans across the country have called the humanitarian assistance offered by China and Iran "insignificant and ridiculous" and lament that what little there is has not yet been distributed to those in need.

"During the previous government, a sufficient amount of aid from different countries flowed to Afghanistan and reached the deserving people, but now that the Taliban are in power, they cannot feed their own people," said Abdul Karim, a resident of Herat.

"Of Afghanistan's 35 million population, more than 30 million live under the poverty line and are suffering from starvation, and a few truckloads of wheat flour, rice and blankets cannot satisfy their needs," he said.

"While the Afghans are suffering from the impact of ... the fall of the previous government, Iran and China have made insufficient humanitarian assistance that included only rice and blankets," said Samim Ahadi, a resident of Herat.

"These countries should understand that their aid is not sufficient and cannot stop the emerging catastrophic economic fallout."

"The international community has poured billions of dollars in aid over the past 20 years and transformed the lives of Afghans, but the recent aid provided by the neighbouring countries is not enough even for a few small families," he said.

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