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The Azadi Briefing: Afghanistan Receives Much-Needed Humanitarian Funding

An Afghan woman sits next to a child suffering from malnutrition and other diseases while receiving treatment at Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.
An Afghan woman sits next to a child suffering from malnutrition and other diseases while receiving treatment at Mirwais hospital in Kandahar.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, a senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

International humanitarian operations in Afghanistan were boosted after the European Union and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced they would provide nearly $550 million in funding.

The ADB has approved $400 million “in grants to protect the welfare and livelihoods of vulnerable Afghan people, particularly women and girls, and ease the adverse impact of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.”

The EU has agreed to release more than $149 million of humanitarian assistance “in the fields of education, health, agriculture, and women's economic empowerment in Afghanistan.”

The announcement follows desperate calls for funding after the UN warned that millions among the nearly 30 million Afghans dependent on humanitarian aid will go hungry if they don’t receive urgent humanitarian funding.

“In Afghanistan, WFP has been forced to end life-saving aid for 10 million people,” Cindy McCain, the executive director of the UN World Food Program (WFP), warned on X, formerly known as Twitter, on September 19. “This is what a funding crisis means: no $$, no food.”

In August, the International Rescue Committee, a U.S. nongovernmental organization, said Afghanistan had only received 23 percent of this year's $4.6 billion proposed humanitarian funding.

Why It's Important: These announcements are welcome news for aid workers attempting to save lives in one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world.

The UN estimates that more than two-thirds of Afghanistan's estimated 40 million people need humanitarian assistance. The WFP estimates that more than 3 million Afghans are at risk of famine.

The Taliban's return to power in August 2021 quickly worsened the vast humanitarian crisis millions faced. The impoverished country lost Western aid, which was financing more than 70 percent of the government budget. The economy collapsed as sanctions kicked in against the Taliban leaders.

Yet the UN and international NGOs prevented thousands of deaths and starvation by quickly responding to the humanitarian crisis after utilizing generous funds from Western donors.

What's Next: New funding will help aid agencies prevent a humanitarian catastrophe during the winter, which begins with the first snowfall in November.

However, Western funding for humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan is not guaranteed in the long run. Domestic pressure is likely to prevent Western governments from giving money to a country where the Taliban government has even banned women from working for international aid groups after banning their education and work.

Longer term, Afghanistan's economy is unlikely to quickly turn around under the Taliban's unrecognized government.

What To Keep An Eye On

The caretaker Taliban government is working on a new constitution to establish a permanent government and consultative bodies.

The Taliban’s chief justice, Abdul Hakim Haqqani, is leading the process of writing a constitution, which is under wraps.

“We are still working on the supreme law as we debate [the role of the consultative] councils,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, chief Taliban spokesman. “Once finalized, it will revive all the aspects of governance.”

After seizing power two years ago, the Taliban has imposed a caretaker government comprised of top Taliban leaders, which has been ruling in a legal vacuum by suspending the country’s 2004 constitution.

Why It's Important: Few Afghans believe the Taliban constitution will be framed and adopted in any kind of a democratic, consultative process.

They are concerned that it will be yet another step toward permanently imposing a government by the group that has taken away most fundamental rights and freedoms from Afghans.

“This law is unlikely to be a recipe for a self-governing democratic polity that will pave the way for the international recognition of the Taliban government,” Attiqur Rahman Habib, an Afghan legal expert, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.