There are fears that much-needed foreign aid to Afghanistan will decrease once international military forces withdraw from the country. Aid experts say a drop in assistance would worsen Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.
United States and Taliban representatives are attempting to negotiate an agreement to end nearly 18 years of fighting. Such a deal could raise questions about the future of aid from other countries.
The biggest victims in Afghanistan are children. The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF estimates that about 2 million Afghan boys and girls face severe malnutrition. Of those, about 600,000 could die without urgent treatment, UNICEF said.
One example of this urgency can be seen in Jebul Siraj, a mountainside community north of the capital, Kabul.
On a visit to Jebul Siraj, a reporter from The Associated Press saw a woman holding a 7-month-old boy. Days before, the boy was receiving emergency medical care. Now, he was drinking a special food mixture supplied by a UNICEF-supported nutrition program. Nearby other mothers lined up with their children for food.
Fariba Hashimi is a health care worker at a hospital in a nearby city. The hospital treats more than 1,000 children a month for malnutrition. She says the problem is getting worse.
“It’s mostly an economic issue, for mothers as well,” Hashimi told The AP. “They can’t breastfeed because they don’t have enough income to feed themselves.”
Health care and other basic services, such as power supplies, are unpredictable across the country.
The World Bank has estimated that outside assistance pays for about 75 percent of total public spending. The bank has warned of the dangers of a quick reduction “in international aid flows.”
Afghanistan has received more American aid than any other country since the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001. Even after billions of dollars in assistance, more than half of its people still live in poverty. Much of the aid has gone to security efforts. Many Afghans say a lot of the money has also been wasted through government corruption and bad management.
U.S. government aid to Afghanistan was cut in half in 2014, the year that U.S. and NATO forces officially ended military operations there. About 20,000 forces remain, largely to train and support Afghan forces.
Alex Thier once directed assistance for the country with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He told The AP that if a U.S.-Taliban agreement brings badly needed peace, Afghanistan could actually see an increase in aid.
But if the peace process lasts a long time or fails, it could reduce the “enthusiasm for giving,” he said. Political observers say some groups would be slow to donate to a Taliban-influenced government that does not respect the rights of women and others.
The Taliban has suggested it wants international aid to continue after an agreement. Alex Thier says it is his understanding that the U.S.-Taliban talks have included discussions on ways to keep foreign aid flowing. He said that information on the negotiations came from diplomats and people tied to the Taliban.
The local U.N. humanitarian representative, Toby Lanzer, says he does not believe foreign aid will decrease. Lanzer told The AP he believes the humanitarian situation is so serious that many donors will agree that aid efforts must continue. Lanzer said he had spoken with U.S. officials and other “particularly generous” countries and they had suggested they are committed to long-term financial support.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
malnutrition – n. serious illness caused by having too little food
income – n. earnings
management – n. the controlling or organizing of something
enthusiasm – n. the feeling of being very interested in something and wanting to be involved in it
generous – adj. giving people a lot of money, things or time