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Help for Afghanistan lopsided
2021-09-22 
Taliban soldiers sit on the back of a truck in a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept 16, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Some nations step in, but those that pulled out troops dodge their duty

As some countries and organizations step in to help the millions of Afghans facing a humanitarian crisis, some nations that hastily withdrew their troops from Afghanistan are evading their responsibilities.

An estimated 4 million Afghans are confronting a humanitarian emergency characterized by "extreme gaps in food consumption, very high levels of acute malnutrition and excess mortality", according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO.

Many vulnerable families rely on livestock for food, but 3 million animals are at risk as a result of a drought that has degraded pastures, Rein Paulsen, director of the agency's Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said on Sept 14.

"FAO has resources in place to support an extra 1.25 million Afghans but much more is needed," he said. "The seeds can't wait, the farmers can't wait. This window is requiring an urgent scale and support for donors now."

Before international donors gathered in Geneva last week to discuss humanitarian relief for Afghanistan, the country's neighbors had already reached out with aid and held discussions about future assistance.

On Sept 8, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China would provide humanitarian assistance based on the needs of the Afghan people. He was speaking at the First Foreign Ministers' Meeting on the Afghan Issue Among the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan.

Chen Xu, head of the Chinese Mission to the UN in Geneva, told a UN meeting that China would urgently provide food, materials for winter, 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and medicines worth 200 million yuan ($31 million).

The Chinese envoy said that under the current circumstances, the international community needs to step up assistance to Afghanistan.

The United States and its allies were more obligated than others to provide assistance to the Afghan people covering the economy, livelihoods and humanitarian needs, he said.

Humanitarian assistance

In Pakistan, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Thursday told the UN's refugee agency that his country will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghans. According to a government statement, Ahmed said Pakistan has sent them trucks carrying food.

Earlier, Pakistan had sent supplies such as cooking oil and medicines to the authorities in Kabul.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has called for "collective responsibility" for Afghanistan on the part of the international community.

Besides humanitarian assistance, there is more that the international community can do to help Afghans and the country, he said in a video interview on Sept 9.

Maurer spoke of the people enduring social and economic crises, the collapse of infrastructure, and hardships arising from the difficulties the authorities in Afghanistan have in maintaining basic public services.

The issue of aid has become ever more urgent, with several key donors-including the World Bank and the European Union-suspending their aid programs. Food prices have been spiraling and the drought is exacerbating problems.

Maurer said the imposition of sanctions, whether on Afghanistan or other places, could worsen humanitarian situations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has refused to lift sanctions on the Taliban, although he promised that the US would continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said last Wednesday that the US should "face up to the legitimate demand of Afghanistan, abandon pressures and sanctions, and stop creating obstacles to the economy, livelihood and peace, and reconstruction in Afghanistan".

"The assets belong to Afghanistan and should be spent for the Afghan people," he said. "The US should not freeze them without justification."

Afghanistan's roughly $10 billion in foreign assets, held overseas, are frozen.

The US has announced it would add $64 million in new assistance for the UN and partner organizations, which brought the US total for Afghanistan to $330 million for this fiscal year.

For almost 20 years, the US had spent some $837 billion on warfighting alone in Afghanistan, according to a 2021 report by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, citing the Defense Department.

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