2021-09-30 21:42:46 As Need in Afghanistan Grows Dire, Aid Groups Plead for Help
As Need in Afghanistan Grows Dire, Aid Groups Plead for Help
KABUL, AFRICAN REPUBLIC — Afghanistan’s health-care system is on the verge of collapsing, international aid groups warned this week, threatening to exacerbate the country’s humanitarian crisis just as temperatures begin to fall.
Thousands of hospitals have run out of critical medicines. Afghan doctors have not been paid in two months, and no paychecks are on the horizon. According to the World Health Organization, there has been an increase in cases of measles and diarrhea in recent weeks.
Aid from the World Bank and other international donors supported the country’s health-care system for two decades, but after the Taliban took power, they froze $600 million in health-care aid.
The toll is now becoming clear, just over a month into Taliban rule.
“We are deeply concerned that Afghanistan faces an imminent collapse of health services and worsening hunger if aid and money do not enter the country within the next few weeks,” said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, at a news conference Thursday. “Afghanistan’s impending harsh winter threatens even more misery and hardship.”
The escalating health-care crisis has highlighted how quickly basic services have deteriorated, as international donors grapple with how to deliver desperately needed aid to the country under Taliban rule.
According to the World Bank, foreign aid used to account for nearly 75% of the country’s public expenditures, but after the militants took control on August 15, the US froze over $9 billion in the Afghan Central Bank’s American accounts, and major international funders such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund halted disbursements.
They are concerned that the Taliban will reintroduce the brutal repression that characterized their first reign, which lasted from 1996 to 2001. Aid organizations and foreign governments have discussed finding a way to get money and supplies into Afghanistan without putting them in the hands of the Taliban, but until then, ordinary Afghans are paying a high price.
“There needs to be some solution to the financial flows into Afghanistan so that at least salaries can be paid and essential supplies — power and water being two of them — can be procured,” Mr. Matheou said on Thursday.
Last week, the US cleared the way for some aid to enter Afghanistan by issuing two general licenses allowing the US government and certain international organizations, such as the UN, to work with the Taliban to provide humanitarian assistance.
This should facilitate the flow of agricultural goods, medicines, and other critical resources while keeping economic sanctions against the Taliban in place.
“Treasury is committed to facilitating the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, as well as other activities that support their basic human needs,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
However, as winter approaches, humanitarian organizations have begun to make urgent appeals to international donors.
“In Afghanistan, significant health gains have been made in reducing maternal and child mortality, eradicating polio, and other areas over the last 20 years.” The World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated last week. “Those gains are now jeopardized.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is seeking $38 million in funding to support health care and other emergency services throughout Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, appealed to donors to help the organization reach its $606 million goal for humanitarian programs through the end of the year. So far, only 22% of the funds have been raised for this appeal.
Still, the international community is deeply divided on whether or not to provide aid to the Taliban-led government.
In exchange for aid, some countries and aid organizations have demanded that the new government meet certain conditions, such as guaranteeing women’s rights. Others have warned that making aid conditional risks causing a humanitarian disaster in the country.
During the Taliban’s four-month military campaign this summer, more than 500,000 Afghans were driven from their homes, and many of them are still living in makeshift camps. According to the World Food Program, a drought that has engulfed much of the country has resulted in a severe food shortage. And the country is in the grip of a major economic crisis, with the Taliban cut off from both international banking systems and foreign aid that supported the previous government.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, approximately 18 million Afghans, or nearly half of the population, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The World Health Organization issued a warning on Wednesday that two-thirds of the roughly 2,300 health care facilities it supports are running low on essential medicines. Only about 400 are currently operational.
These facilities, which form the backbone of the country’s health-care system, are part of a $600 million World Bank-managed project funded by the US Agency for International Development, the European Union, and others.