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31.03.22

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) today) and 10 other senators by sending a letter urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power to lobby international donors at the United Nations Donors Conference to fill the current $3.8 billion funding gap for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and ensure that aid reaches the Afghan people in need.

“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is worsening, with more than half the population – 23 million people – in need of assistance. In response, the UN appealed to international donors for $4.4 billion to meet humanitarian needs in Afghanistan – the largest single-country appeal in history. Ahead of the high-level donor event scheduled for March 31, we urge the administration to work closely with our international partners to generously pledge and rapidly provide funds that will help save lives in Afghanistan. », wrote the senators.

The senators continued, “As the economy collapses, the suffering of the Afghan people worsens. Today, 95% of households in Afghanistan do not have enough to eat. This summer, 97% of Afghans will be living below the poverty line, trying to survive on less than two dollars a day. With nine million people one step away from starvation, this humanitarian crisis could kill more Afghans than the past 20 years of war.

“We understand that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is causing unprecedented levels of suffering for the Afghan people, and we call for strong oversight to ensure that all aid reaches the Afghan people. Without the full participation of female humanitarian personnel in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all humanitarian services, aid will not be delivered in a way that respects humanitarian principles and cannot not reaching the most vulnerable Afghan women and girls in the hardest to reach areas. The Taliban must allow unimpeded humanitarian access, safe conditions for humanitarians, the independent delivery of assistance to all vulnerable people, and freedom of movement for humanitarian workers of all genders,” wrote the senators.

The senators concluded: “Amid crises in Yemen, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Syria and elsewhere, the international community must not lose sight of Afghanistan. We encourage you to lobby major international donors to fill the current $3.8 billion funding gap for humanitarian programs and to provide these funds quickly. These include countries in the region and members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as like-minded partners who have generously supported Afghanistan over the past years. Finally, we encourage you to work closely with our allies in the region to ease any restrictions on humanitarian access in Afghanistan to enable humanitarian partners to reach those in need.

US Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) , Edward Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also signed the letter.

In January, Durbin led a letter to the Biden administration calling for the inclusion of funding for international emergency food assistance in all additional demands coming to Congress. While the Biden administration recently provided an additional $308 million in aid to humanitarian groups, the senators noted in the letter that the United Nations and the World Food Program (WFP) indicate that much more is needed to prevent mass starvation in several countries, especially in Afghanistan where the majority of the population is seriously threatened.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

March 31, 2022

Dear Blinken Secretary and Power Administrator,

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is worsening, with more than half the population – 23 million people – in need of assistance. In response, the UN appealed to international donors for $4.4 billion to meet humanitarian needs in Afghanistan – the largest single-country appeal in history. Ahead of the high-level donor event scheduled for March 31, we urge the administration to work closely with our international partners to generously pledge and rapidly provide funds that will help save lives in Afghanistan. .

Even before the Taliban took power, the Afghan economy suffered from long-standing structural problems. The country was heavily dependent on foreign aid, which financed 75% of public expenditure and was equivalent to around 40% of the country’s GDP. The Taliban takeover caused a decline in foreign aid and put a strain on the liquidity and solvency of the Afghan financial sector. The IMF estimates that the country’s economy will contract by up to 30% this year, and many senior officials and technical experts needed to ensure sound economic management have fled the country. Although humanitarian aid is essential to save lives in the short term, it cannot replace a functioning economy in Afghanistan. It will take years to resolve these underlying structural economic problems.

As the economy collapses, the suffering of the Afghan people worsens. Today, 95% of households in Afghanistan do not have enough to eat. This summer, 97% of Afghans will be living below the poverty line, trying to survive on less than two dollars a day. With nine million people one step away from starvation, this humanitarian crisis could kill more Afghans than the past 20 years of war.

Strong international commitments to support humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan are more critical than ever. Last year, Afghanistan faced a 40% loss in wheat production due to drought and economic deterioration related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past month, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further increased the price of wheat on the world food market. The World Food Program previously depended on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of the wheat it supplies to countries like Afghanistan.

We understand that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is causing unprecedented levels of suffering for the Afghan people, and we urge strong oversight to ensure that all assistance reaches the Afghan people. Without the full participation of female humanitarian personnel in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all humanitarian services, aid will not be delivered in a way that respects humanitarian principles and cannot not reaching the most vulnerable Afghan women and girls in the hardest to reach areas. The Taliban must allow unimpeded humanitarian access, safe conditions for humanitarians, the independent provision of assistance to all vulnerable people, and freedom of movement for humanitarian workers of all genders.

Immediately after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Congress passed a supplementary appropriations bill providing $915 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. With this funding, Congress has sent a strong signal that the United States must lead a strong response from the international community to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. We support the administration’s initial contribution in 2022 of more than $308 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan on January 11and. At the next donation ceremony on March 31st, we urge the administration to commit additional and substantial funds to the response in Afghanistan as soon as possible to ensure that vital assistance programs are not reduced or cancelled. A significant commitment from the United States is vital to encourage other countries to follow its lead. Generous and timely investments, flowing to the right frontline agencies, are essential to saving lives and averting famine in Afghanistan.

Amid crises in Yemen, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Syria and elsewhere, the international community must not lose sight of Afghanistan. We encourage you to lobby major international donors to fill the current $3.8 billion funding gap for humanitarian programs and to provide these funds quickly. These include countries in the region and members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as like-minded partners who have generously supported Afghanistan over the past years. Finally, we encourage you to work closely with our allies in the region to ease any restrictions on humanitarian access in Afghanistan to enable humanitarian partners to reach those in need.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this crisis, because the Afghan people deserve our unwavering support.

Truly,

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