Aid groups from Afghanistan and around the world are reporting that they are having difficulty obtaining emergency aid, basic services, and funds for a population facing starvation, unemployment, and the coronavirus 20 years after the war.
A public health nonprofit, which paid salaries and bought food and fuel for hospitals using contributions from the World Bank and the European Union, is one of the organizations that are struggling to function. After the Taliban took control of the capital, the Afghan Health Ministry lost $600 million.
According to Abdul Wali, the head of the local chapter of Organization for Health Promotion and Management, clinics in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost Province can no longer afford to clean, despite being plagued by COVID-19 patients.
Wali stated, "All we can do is wait and hope for cash to arrive." If this continues, we face disaster.
This week , donors pledged to help the country with $1.2 billion by opening their purse strings during a United Nations appeal . The Taliban-controlled government is being deprived of funding sources by the West and international financial institutions until their intentions are clearer. This has caused Afghans to be vulnerable.
The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and European Union stopped financing projects in Afghanistan. In addition, $7 billion was frozen by the United States in Afghan foreign reserves kept in New York. The country's GDP is nearly half, and foreign aid to Afghanistan was previously estimated at $8.5 billion per year.
The Kabul interim government cannot access foreign or its own funds and can't pay import taxes to transport food containers from Pakistan. Yonus Momand, Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that.
To force Afghanistan's new leaders into respecting the rights of women, and religious minorities, the West has devised a strategy to destroy the Taliban's finances. Last week a hardline, all-male Cabinet was appointed. One of the ministers is subject to U.N. sanctions while another has a $5 million FBI bounty.
Although it is not clear how long the Afghan central bank reserves can be accessed, American officials insist that humanitarian organizations can bypass Taliban authorities to deliver directly the Afghans who are in danger of losing their lives or their futures following the U.S. pullout.
Lisa Curtis, former director for South and Central Asia at the U.S. National Security Council, stated that "it's still possible to fulfill the basic needs of Afghans without recompense the government with broadereconomic assistance and diplomatic recognition."
However, the reality on the ground shows that this approach is not sustainable. Over 3.5 million people have been displaced by fighting over the years, including half a million since 2011. The cost of basic goods has increased dramatically. People wait for hours or even days to withdraw money from banks so that they can feed their families.
Individuals can withdraw $200 per week from Afghanistan's bank, but organizations cannot get any money. Paralysis has hindered the work of local authorities, who use World Bank development funds for clean water and health services.
Stefan Recker, director of Caritas' Afghanistan relief organization Catholic, stated that "the cash remains the major issue." "We are unable to pay our staff, manage our aid projects, or implement new programs that are urgently needed."
Groups that are dependent on international donors for financial support are being cut off from their bank accounts and resort to stop-gap measures to keep them afloat. They use a combination of Western Union transfers, mobile payment service MPESA and hawala to get cash. This informal money transfer system was used by the Taliban to power Afghanistan's economy in the 1990s.
This ancient system was in place before banks existed. It works on the principle of cash not needing to be changed if two people want to send equal amounts to two places. Hawala dealers are used to transfer funds across the provinces and record loans.
Marianne O'Grady (CARE's deputy Afghanistan director) said that although it's not a long-term solution for Afghanistan, the hawala system was beneficial for a long period. It's trusted by people so we use it.
Some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, avoided the messy debate about financial aid by sending planeloads full of food and medicine to Kabul. They are betting that the rice will be distributed to the poor and not go to Taliban ministers on terror watch lists.
Many insist that rice shipments and informal money transfers are not the best way to stop Afghanistan's financial and social collapse. As winter draws near, Afghans face even more dire times, with the threat of famine, drought, and potential Taliban violence.
Despite the fact that the U.N. raised $1.2 billion this week, there is still uncertainty surrounding the international outpouring of sympathy. Aid workers need to know exactly where the money is going, and when. They also want to know how cash-strapped nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan will be addressed.
Vicki Aken (Afghan director for the International Rescue Committee) stated that while the U.N. had much to say about food delivery and plans to reestablish public services, she heard nothing about plans to do so. "What about the salaries of doctors and teachers?"
These salaries are now managed by financial plumbing that is controlled by ex-insurgents with a terrible reputation. The U.S. hopes that the Taliban will honor their promises to create an inclusive and moderate government by retaining its control over the Afghan state's foreign reserve.
While Afghanistan's new rulers have pledged to distribute U.N. aid fairly as of Tuesday, recent reports indicate that Taliban fighters are cracking down on journalists and peaceful protests .
According to Daniel Runde, a Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, "It's gray zone." "We spent a lot of money to build up state capacity. Do we want a bank system that is broken down so doctors can't give vaccines? Are we concerned enough about women's education that this system is acceptable?
The international community is still trying to figure out the answer. Kabul's government-run pediatric hospital treats malnourished children. They have run out all of their antibiotics and gauze, and they are now preparing for the harsh winter without heat.
Noorulhaq Yousufzai (the clinic's doctor) stated that the economic situation is getting worse and so are the cases of malnutrition.