Afghanistan: A Race against Time to Save Lives
A dramatic 30-second video was issued Jan. 5 by the World Food Program (WFP), showing both hungry children and food delivery, with the text: “The situation in Afghanistan may have faded from the front page, but don’t let Afghan families fade from your mind. 8.7 million people are on the brink of starvation. Read that again: 8.7 million people are on the brink of starvation. What we do today has the power to change the fate of more than 23 million people. Act now.”
The outspoken Executive Director of the WFP, David Beasley, has been tirelessly campaigning for donations to save lives in Afghanistan, a country whose economy was ravaged by 20 years of war and military occupation waged by the United States and NATO member countries. In addition to the nearly 9 million people already in near-famine conditions, Beasley stresses, 23 million out of a population of 38 million “are marching toward starvation”.
And yet, those sames Western powers, not only persist in refusing to release $9 bn of reserves belonging to the Afghan Central Bank currently held in international financial institutions (mainkly American), but they have also imposed sanctions on the Taliban government, which have de facto cut the country off from foreign trade. Inflation has now reached 20% for wheat, 30% for flour and 74% for gasoline!
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is also sounding the alarm. In its Emergency Watchlist released on Jan. 7, it ranks Afghanistan as the country most at risk of worsening humanitarian crisis in 2022, giving figures similar to those of the WFP. In addition, it notes that over 90% of the existing health clinics are expected to shut down, “depriving millions of basic care, threatening the COVID-19 response and creating a major risk of disease outbreaks, malnutrition and preventable deaths.”
This situation demonstrates the extreme hypocrisy of the Western claim that the sanctions are meant to punish the Taliban for human rights violations against women and children. As the IRC reports: “Women and girls in Afghanistan are now at higher risk of gender-based violence, child marriage, and exploitation and abuse as resources become scarce and needs go unmet. The collapse of the health system could unravel gains made in areas like maternal health.”
Given the tremendous international pressure, the U.S. finally agreed on Dec. 24 to vote for a resolution in the United Nations Security Council, exempting humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan from the sanctions banning financial or economic transactions with institutions associated with the Taliban. A first draft resolution, presented by the U.S., had been rejected by Russia and China because it only would have lifted sanctions on a case-by-case basis, depending on the aid providers.