AS the world grapples with multiple crises, the miseries of the people of Afghanistan seem to have been relegated to the margins. According to the UN’s World Food Programme, rations are being cut for millions of Afghans due to a funding shortfall. As it is, the impoverished, isolated nation is heavily dependent on outside aid to feed its population. The UN estimates that 90pc of Afghans cannot afford food, with around 28m in need of humanitarian assistance. There are multiple reasons for Afghanistan’s dire predicament. The foremost is the fact that the country has been destabilised by decades of foreign-sponsored wars, as well as the associated internal strife. Moreover, although Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021, the international community has yet to recognise the ruling regime, mainly because of the latter’s stringent curbs on fundamental rights, particularly women’s freedoms. This has left Afghanistan largely isolated and cut off from international financial systems, with only limited engagement with the outside world. If donor fatigue and the global economic situation are factored in, the outlook for the Afghan people is quite grim.
While many nations may be hesitant to channel funds through the Taliban, the Afghan people should not be made to pay for the hard-line group’s sins. It is a moral imperative for the world community to ensure basic humanitarian supplies — food, medicine, etc — keep flowing into Afghanistan. If the US, for example, can spend over $2tr on making war in Afghanistan, and the West can funnel billions of dollars to arm Ukraine, a few million dollars required to keep food on Afghans’ tables should not be a difficult ask. Moreover, Muslim states, particularly the energy-rich petro-monarchies, need to chip in to ensure Afghans have enough to eat. Making sure funds do not end up in the Taliban’s hands is a valid concern, but this can be addressed by channelling aid through the UN or established humanitarian groups.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2023
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