Afghanistan: Putting the Humanity First

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Asad Tahir Jappa

Approximately half of the 40 million Afghans are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. As many as 8.7 million people would need long-term and consistent assistance

After the sudden withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, the already unsustainable Afghan economy has been hit the hardest due to the changed reality of Afghanistan. The US presence and its backed governments in Afghanistan did little to make Afghan economy stable and primarily focused on corruption and personal benefits during the last two decades. Due to international disengagement and freezing assets of Afghanistan, Afghans are facing pressing poverty, widespread hunger, no access to health services and a poor economy. Moreover, four decade of war, cold weather, Covid-19, and mass exodus of health care worker associated with international players and corrupt previous regimes are the main factors of worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs international aid urgently due to these compelling factors but unfortunately, the response from the western countries has been far more than just disappointing, so far.
During these testing times, Pakistan has not only urged the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan but has also been at the forefront in providing food and medicine supplies to the war-torn country. It is about time that other countries need to follow Pakistan’s footsteps and help Afghan government to protect the economic and social status as well as dignity of Afghan people who have been paying the price for instability in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, Moeed Yusuf, will soon visit Afghanistan to assess the on ground humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and thus recommend ways and means to help the suffering Afghans, by all means possible.
Afghanistan’s economy is aid-dependent and the previous governments relied heavily on grant funding for more than 75 percent of public spending. Approximately half of the 40 million Afghans are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. As many as 8.7 million people would need long-term and consistent assistance. The Afghan health system has also suffered badly. The state-run health care system heavily relied on foreign funds and is now unable to pay salaries to the doctors and staff or even to buy medicines.
The poverty rate in Afghanistan was already high during the Karzai and Ghani regimes and it has further increased due to the changed reality. The United Nations has warned that about 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population may sink below the poverty line if the country’s political and economic crises are not addressed on war footing. The ordinary Afghans have suffered from the perpetual wars in Afghanistan during the last four decades. Different Afghan warlords as well as international powers have fought for the rule in Afghanistan leading to current fragile Afghan economy. The time has come that the common man in Afghanistan gets the right to live in a stable and peaceful environment for which the sustainable Afghan government and fulfillment of basic necessities are essential. The international community needs to take practical steps to bring out Afghans from humanitarian disaster which is getting deeper with every passing day.
It is so very reassuring to know that Pakistan has engaged with the Afghan government to avoid the potential collapse of Afghan economy which will have negative consequences for the whole region. Due to these grim realities there, Pakistan has been sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and also calling on the world community to be more responsible and empathetic towards the Afghan situation. Pakistan has formed the Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee (AICC) to coordinate and facilitate Afghan people. AICC is working diligently to improve border movements, trade facilitation & capacity building of Afghans in various sectors. Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved Rs.5 billion humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. According to special waiver, Prime Minister has also allowed transportation of Indian announced wheat assistance for the war-torn country through Pakistan.
Furthermore, in order to prevent the human catastrophe and assist Afghan people who have suffered the most, the Pak Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) has been established by Pakistan which is active in facilitating and providing aid to Afghanistan. Pakistan has provided 4x C-130s and 315 truckloads carrying humanitarian aid for Afghan people from 19 September to 16 January 2022. Likewise, Pakistan is also facilitating the channeling of aid to Afghanistan. The total aid provided so far comes to 5605 tons which includes food, medicines and other essential items. Pakistan has been providing medical facilities to Afghans since long, and allowed those in need of immediate health assistance to enter the country to seek medical assistance at hospitals in Quetta, Peshawar and other cities of the country. Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum organized a free Eye Camp at Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital Kabul from 22-24 November. Eye specialists from Pakistan have examined and treated afghan patients.
Earlier they successfully conducted a similar camp in Khost from 18- 20 Nov 2021. Over 2670 patients were examined and 324 surgeries were performed in the Khost camp while 5450 patients were examined and 206 surgeries were performed in Kabul camp. Pakistan has initiated free vaccination of the Afghans since November 13, 2021. The Prime Minister ordered that the facility of free Covid-19 vaccination for the Afghans entering Pakistan from land borders be continued. Similarly, medical visa facility has been provided to Afghan patients and Pakistan authorities have removed the requirement of getting gate pass for crossing border and border would be opened for pedestrian movement for 12 hours instead of eight. Pakistan has opened 5 border trade stations along the Pak-Afghan border to ease the flow of goods across the border. They include Torkham, Chaman, Kharlachi, Ghulam Khan, and Angoor Adda.
In the ultimate analysis, it is the years of protracted conflict, the impact of Covid-19, the effects of climate change and now the current political turmoil, which have pushed Afghanistan into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Millions of lives are at stake, and children are already dying of hunger. The world must come forward to support emergency relief in Afghanistan. About 22 million people – more than half of the population – are facing acute food insecurity in the next three months. With rampant unemployment and food prices spiraling out of control, current projections show that 97 percent of Afghans will be in poverty within a year. More than 8 million people are just one step away from famine, 3 million children under five are expected to suffer from malnutrition, and 1 million of these children are at risk of dying. Families have resorted to selling anything they have left of value, and tragically, children as young as five are being forced to work for more than twelve hours a day to afford their families a meal. Afghans are being plunged deeper into poverty and as the harsh winter season is already taking its heavy toll, there’s even more of a terrifying risk to the lives of millions of Afghans. Without taking action now, there is a real risk of a famine and widespread hunger across Afghanistan. We are facing a race against time and a lot needs to be done here and now, by putting humanity first and foremost.