Harsh conditions in Afghanistan | WORLD

Harsh conditions in Afghanistan |  WORLD

On August 29, the UN humanitarian chief painted a dire prospect for Afghanistan, a country long ravaged by war and now ruled by terrorists. An estimated 6 million Afghans are at risk of starvation and winter is coming. In just three months, temperatures in the capital Kabul will begin to drop below freezing.

“We are against time,” Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council in a virtual speech. “The consequences of inaction on the humanitarian and development fronts will be catastrophic and difficult to reverse.” Griffiths urged international donors to restore funding for economic development and provide $770 million in aid to Afghans for shelter, warm clothing, food and other supplies.

August 30 marks a year since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan abruptly ended a 20-year war with the Taliban, restoring the repressive Islamic regime to power in a country that has seen little peace since 1978. The humanitarian crisis escalated as the community international aid stopped large-scale development assistance, governments froze billions of dollars in Afghan assets, and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) left the country.

Millions of Afghans are now struggling to survive. But the Taliban’s harsh regime, along with the ongoing violence and persecution in the country, continue to block aid groups that could provide desperately needed help. Meanwhile, political divisions persist over how foreign governments can boost Afghanistan’s economy while still sanctioning its extremist leaders.

A woman holds her 4-year-old daughter, who is suffering from acute malnutrition, at her home near Herat.

A woman holds her 4-year-old daughter, who is suffering from acute malnutrition, at her home near Herat.
Mstyslav Chernov/AP

The watching world sharply criticized the United States for abandoning its Afghan allies behind Taliban lines (see “Abandoned in Afghanistan,” Aug. 27). But US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council that the Taliban is to blame for the current crisis, citing policies that “repress and starve the Afghan people instead of protecting them”.

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Currently, more than half of the country’s population – some 24 million Afghans – need assistance. Of those, 19 million are facing acute levels of food insecurity, said Griffiths. According to a survey by the non-profit organization Save the Children, only 3% of Afghan families say they are able to meet their families’ basic needs.

“Humanitarian organizations lack the capacity to meet the growing needs of the Afghan population,” Lucien Christen, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, said in an email to WORLD. Christen cited the challenges of growing electricity shortages, contaminated water and limited access to health care.

Many US-based aid groups have largely left the country. One, Joint Development Associates International, worked in Afghanistan for 20 years rebuilding infrastructure and hosting training programs in agriculture and hygiene, but quit last year when the Taliban invaded Kabul. CEO Bob Hedlund said the return would require hiring and training hundreds of new employees and would somehow prevent the Taliban from appropriating aid money. Instead, he is sending money to support Afghan officials still stranded in the country and helping to resettle others.

If a truck full of food turns up at the Afghan border, we know it’s likely to be hijacked and used for other purposes… we have to work undercover.

Sometimes small covert operations — whether smuggling aid to endangered Christians and Afghan allies stranded in the country or helping them emigrate — are the best smaller aid groups can do.

“If a truckload of food turns up at the Afghan border, we know it will likely be diverted and used for other purposes… we have to work undercover,” said Jeremy Frith, CEO of Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Barnabas Aid. The Christian organization relies on “trusted partners” in neighboring countries to ensure supplies and funds reach the hundreds of Afghan Christians it still supports, Frith said.

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Jennifer Cervantes of Spero Worldwide said her group currently has 10 aid workers in Afghanistan. After the US withdrawal, Spero established 42 “safe houses” with food and medical supplies for Afghan allies hiding in the country. But in May, he had to close the houses for lack of financing. Now the group works primarily to help at-risk families get out of Afghanistan, but “the window is closing as the Taliban takes hold,” Cervantes said.

Meanwhile, 32 NGOs recently released a joint statement urging the international community to unfreeze the country’s central bank assets amid “widespread hunger, unemployment and near-universal poverty”. The Guardian reported. But a year after the Taliban took over, the Biden administration refused to release $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan assets. The government noted that the Taliban was harboring al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who was killed by an American drone strike in late July. Earlier this year, the Taliban government also named a man the United States has labeled a global terrorist to help lead Afghanistan’s central bank.

“No country that is serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate giving the Taliban instant and unconditional access to billions in assets that belong to the Afghan people,” said Thomas-Greenfield.

—with additional reporting by Todd Vician

Source : wng.org

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