U.S. to Provide $300 Million in New Aid to Starving Afghanistan
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has announced $308 million in new humanitarian assistance to help ease an urgent food and healthcare crisis in Taliban-led Afghanistan.
The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, will direct the funds through independent aid organizations on the ground that work to provide emergency health, shelter and nutrition services in the country, Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the National Security Council said in a statement. The aid brings America’s total financial assistance in the country to nearly $782 million since October last year.
The announcement comes as the United Nations has warned that one of the worst humanitarian crises of all time is unfolding in Afghanistan. It said more than half the country’s nearly 40 million people are facing acute hunger and a million children could die as a harsh winter sets in. It has also said as much as 97% of Afghanistan’s population could be living in poverty by mid-2022, up from about 72% in 2020.
The UN’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan, released earlier Tuesday, lays out the need for $4.4 billion in aid that would reach more than half of the population to “address immediate and catastrophic levels of need.”
The U.S., the single largest provider of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, is also providing one million additional Covid-19 vaccine doses through the World Health Organization’s COVAX mechanism, making a total contribution of 4.3 million doses, Horne said.
America has also urged the Taliban to allow all aid workers, including women, to operate “independently and securely” and be able to reach all vulnerable people, especially women and girls, without “impediments,” according to a separate statement from USAID.
Washington had earlier said it would bypass the Taliban and expand ways aid groups can help ease a rapidly worsening humanitarian situation in the country, where the economy has been in free fall since the withdrawal of U.S. forces following the Taliban takeover in August.
Several top Taliban officials have blamed the U.S. for the crisis after Washington froze the country’s access its foreign reserves of around $9 billion after the militant group took power. Without hard currency reserves, the Taliban-led government is struggling to pay salaries and import basic goods.
A trickle of UN-supervised financial aid is now entering the country. A fifth round of $32 million in physical cash arrived in capital Kabul Monday, bringing the total contribution of foreign money to more than $100 million since the resumption of the aid flows, according to Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank.
International aid contributes as much as 40% of its GDP and 80% of the country’s budget spending, according to a recent United Nations Development Programme report. Afghanistan would need $6 billion to $8 billion in international grants annually to fund basic services, support growth and sustain peacemaking efforts.
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