/ 14 September 2021

Afghanistan on the brink of breakdown

Image source: Reuters
Image source: Reuters

International donors have met in Geneva, Switzerland overnight and pledged US$1.1 billion in aid for Afghanistan. The nation was thrown into chaos when the Taliban seized power and the US and other Western nations left last month leaving millions of locals at risk. Convened by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the session was attended by international Red Cross chief Peter Maurer and government officials from around the world.

After decades of conflict, Guterres says Afghanistan is facing “perhaps their most perilous hour”. Even before the Taliban took control of Kabul last month, half of the country’s population – 18 million people – was dependent on aid due to drought, food/medicine shortages and displacement from recent fighting. Adding to the pain: foreign donations have dried up over concerns it would end up in the Taliban’s hands. And to further complicate things, Afghanistan’s US$10 billion in foreign assets have been frozen, and the International Monetary Fund has blocked the Taliban from accessing US$440 million in emergency reserves. The UN says that means Afghans are heading into winter without the public services and food they desperately need.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has just arrived in Kabul to “assess the country’s acute humanitarian needs”. He will start discussions with the Taliban to allow aid workers to get on with it. But for many nations thinking about helping Afghanistan, they want evidence the Taliban will not trash human rights like they did last time. Overnight, UN human rights boss Michelle Bachelet accused the Taliban of going house-to-house searching for former officials and she says women had been “progressively excluded” from public life. That breaks early promises on maintaining human rights, she says.

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