Residents line up to receive humanitarian aid outside the office of a charitable organization on Jan. 30, 2022 in suburban Kabul (AFP/Wakil KOHSAR)
The United Nations mobilized $2.44 billion in aid to Afghanistan on Thursday at a donor conference, well short of the funds it had hoped to “end the death spiral” in the ravaged country.
The goal is far from accomplished for the UN, which had gripped the international community with the largest call for funds ever launched for a single country. It hoped to raise $4.4 billion (3.9 billion euros) at this virtual event, which was co-hosted with the United Kingdom, Germany and Qatar, which would have tripled the amount requested by 2021.
In the conference’s opening address, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “immediate action”, without which “we will face a crisis of hunger and malnutrition in Afghanistan”.
“A million severely malnourished children are on the brink of death,” he warned. Some “already sell their children and body parts to feed their families.”
“The first step in a meaningful humanitarian response should be to break the deadly spiral of the Afghan economy,” he said.
– “Save the people” –
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on August 15 after the hasty withdrawal of US-led foreign troops. The humanitarian crisis in the country has rapidly worsened since then.
The UN has been calling for a easing of Western sanctions against Kabul for months after the insurgents returned to power.
“Rich and powerful countries cannot ignore the consequences of their decisions for the most vulnerable,” Guterres said. “The international community must find ways to spare the Afghan people.”
The country is also experiencing its worst drought in decades.
“The situation is incredibly fragile,” said UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths. Life “hangs by a thread for half the population”.
The Taliban sparked outrage last week by ordering the closure of girls’ high schools just hours after they were allowed to reopen for the first time since they took power.
At the conference, heads of British and German diplomacy Liz Truss and Annalena Baerbock condemned the closure.
“No country can thrive if half its population is left behind,” Ms Truss said, urging women to be “at the core” of the international humanitarian response.
The advances for women over the past two decades in Afghanistan “must not melt like ice in the sun,” insisted his German counterpart, announcing that his country would provide 200 million euros in aid.
The UK has pledged $380 million in aid for the coming fiscal year, with at least 50% of that aid going to women and girls.
The United States has pledged to provide nearly $204 million in humanitarian aid.
On a road near Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 10, 2022 (AFP/Javed TANVEER)
Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said it is important for the Taliban to hear from the Muslim world that “the teachings of Islam do not restrict women.”
“We must condemn very strongly and speak very clearly with the Taliban about any violation of human rights, but we must also not give up Afghanistan. We once gave up Afghanistan and we know what the result was,” he added.
Already in early March, at a similar donor conference for Yemen, the UN failed to raise the expected $4.27 billion, mobilizing only $1.3 billion.