Australia will add $40 million in aid to its $100 million for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan for vulnerable groups, including women and children, and address food needs, other health essentials, gender-based violence and shelter.
Foreign minister Marise Payne announced Australia’s aid top-up at the UN Afghanistan Conference last week.
“Economic collapse and a lack of essential services are exacerbating the impact of the conflict, as Afghanistan also faces the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing drought,” Payne said in a statement.
“Afghans across all 34 provinces face high levels of food insecurity. More than half of Afghan children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.”
The UN conference was a coordinated relief operation – the largest but not the only one in Afghanistan – which appealed for $4.4 billion, three times the amount requested last year.
Secretary-general António Guterres said the economic crisis in Afghanistan had worsened to the point people were selling their body parts and children in order to feed their families.
“Afghanistan’s economy has effectively collapsed. There is very little cash,” Guterres said.
“The first step in any meaningful humanitarian response must be to halt the death spiral of the Afghan economy. Without that, even the best-funded and most effective aid operation will not save the people of Afghanistan from an unimaginable future.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 24.4 million people in Afghanistan faced food insecurity and acute hunger, with malnutrition a major problem across the country.
“Australia continues to stand in solidarity with the Afghan people,” Payne said, underscoring the plight of Afghanistan’s women and girls, which is widely considered to have deteriorated since the Taliban took power last year.
Shakila was a judge in Afghanistan. After fleeing Kabul, she's found friendship with Australia's women judges
(Stay tuned for our session on this topic at the upcoming @AusWomenLawyers conference) #auslaw https://t.co/WMLmP0bnCT
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The foreign minister said Australia condemned the Taliban’s decision to deny women and girls access to education, and joined the international community in demanding a reversal of the prohibition. She also had concerns about restrictions imposed on Afghan women’s ability to work and their freedom of movement.
“Australia is committed to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, including the full and meaningful participation of women in society and economic life.
“Women have a vital role in addressing the crisis in Afghanistan. Their meaningful participation is necessary for the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan,” Payne said.