US sending nearly $55 million more in aid to Afghanistan after earthquake

The U.S. will provide nearly $55 million to Afghanistan to respond to a devastating earthquake that took place last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Tuesday.

The additional funds will be distributed through the U.S. Agency for International Development for critical relief items like shelter, cooking materials, portable water storage containers, solar lamps, clothes and other household items. 

The aid will also provide water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to prevent waterborne disease outbreaks. 

“The United States has an enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan, and we welcome and encourage support from our international partners in this time of great need,” Blinken said in a statement.

The new funding brings total U.S. assistance to Afghanistan to more than $774 million in the last year, the secretary said.

The U.S. does not have a diplomatic or humanitarian presence in Afghanistan after leaving the country in August, instead providing funds through partner organizations. 

At least 1,000 people were killed, 3,000 injured and 10,000 homes destroyed when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck in a remote southeastern region of Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, according to the latest updates from Reuters. Aftershocks continue to ravage the area. 

The devastation and fallout from the earthquake come on top of an economic and humanitarian catastrophe in the country, with international assistance over the winter narrowly avoiding a large-scale famine. But half the population, nearly 19 million people, remain food insecure, according to the United Nations.

The United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $110 million to help more than 360,000 Afghans for the next three months in the areas hardest-hit by the earthquake, in the provinces of Paktika and Khost.

The emergency appeal is part of the U.N.’s larger Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan, which calls for $4.4 billion but is only funded at just over one-third. 

Martin Griffiths, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations, said in a briefing last week that delivering humanitarian assistance is complicated by the Taliban’s control over the country.

International sanctions have sought to block the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist group that took over the country in August, from exploiting humanitarian donations.

Griffiths said humanitarian groups are having difficulty accessing funds quickly due to “excessive” diligence by international financial systems, which work to avoid violating sanctions on the Taliban. But he also added that the Taliban are more intently looking to insert themselves between humanitarian organizations and the aid they provide to civilians. 

“There is now a much more palpable frustration by aid organizations, communities and local authorities. Interferences cause delays in programming and compromise access to services, including health and nutrition,” Griffiths said. 

Tags Afghanistan Afghanistan earthquake Antony Blinken Martin Griffiths
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