The United States is donating approximately $308 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and will also contribute additional COVID-19 vaccine doses, a White House spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.
National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a government statement that the United States remains “the single largest donor of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan” and the latest donation brings American aid for the impoverished nation and Afghan refugees in the region to nearly $782 million since the chaotic ending of the 20-year war.
“The new humanitarian assistance by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will directly flow through independent humanitarian organizations and help provide lifesaving protection and shelter, essential health care, winterization assistance, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services in response to the growing humanitarian needs exacerbated by COVID-19 and healthcare shortages, drought, malnutrition, and the winter season,” Horne said.
Meanwhile, the country will also be supplied through global vaccine sharing program COVAX with one million COVID-19 vaccine doses, bringing the total of U.S. contributed vaccines to 4.3 million doses.
The confirmation on the latest U.S. donations come as the United Nations on Tuesday launched a multi-billion dollar funding appeal to avert a humanitarian and economic crisis in the country.
“Today we are launching an appeal for $4.4 billion for Afghanistan itself for 2022,” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said during a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, adding that the appeal is the largest ever in humanitarian assistance for a single country.
Already stressed by continuous drought and conflict, 22 million Afghanis inside the country and 5.7 million beyond its borders are in need of humanitarian assistance following the Taliban terrorist group’s takeover in August, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Griffiths warned that if the international community doesn’t take immediate action in supporting the country, the agency will ask “for $10 billion” next year.
“This is a stop-gap, an absolutely essential stop-gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today,” he said. “Without this being funded, there won’t be a future, we need this to be done, otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering.”
Nearly 80 percent of Afghanistan’s previous government’s budget came from the international community. That money, now cut off, financed hospitals, schools, factories, and government ministries.
International funding was suspended and billions of dollars of Afghanistan’s assets abroad, mostly in the United States, were frozen after the Taliban took control of the country.
The decision by the United States and the international community not to recognize the Taliban-led government, which governed with a strict interpretation of Islamic law when it was in control from 1996 to 2001, has created a quandary for Western powers about how to provide enough aid without giving the Taliban legitimacy or putting money directly into its hands.
A lack of funding has led to increased poverty in the country, and aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. State employees, from doctors to teachers and administrative civil servants, haven’t been paid in months. Banks, meanwhile, have restricted how much money account holders can withdraw.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has called on the Taliban to allow “all aid workers, especially women … to operate independently and securely” as humanitarian groups look to assist those in need of aid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.