Gordon Brown has written to Secretary of State Liz Truss urging her to help convene a donors’ conference to raise $ 4.5 billion (£ 3.3 billion) for Afghanistan, warning that more than 23 million people were at risk of starvation if help did not. materialize.
The former prime minister said: “We are witnessing a shameful but also self-destructive mistake in preventing famine”, adding that Britain should immediately take the lead in resuming delivery of aid, which was dramatically halted after the Taliban took power.
Cash was available, Brown said in an article for the Guardian, but donor countries needed confidence that they would not be affected by existing international sanctions, which he also claimed could be eased if the Taliban made real progress on women’s and girls’ rights. .
On Tuesday, UN agencies launched a call for $ 4.5 billion in aid for 2022, its biggest international appeal ever. The United States responded with a $ 308 million donation to be channeled through independent humanitarian organizations.
But Brown said that was not enough. “The 35-nation, US-led coalition that ruled Afghanistan for 20 years under the banner to help the Afghan people has still set aside only a quarter of the money that would enable UN humanitarian forces to stop children dying. this winter. “
Britain had planned to cut its Afghan aid spending in 2021 in line with broader aid budget cuts, but raised its commitment to £ 286 million in August, taking the overall headline close to the £ 290 million delivered in 2019.
Wealthy countries in the Middle East were ready to commit, he added. “The Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates – have the money and have offered to provide assistance, but they fear a US backlash. Realistically, it will require America to break the keel barrier and end the cycle of starvation and death. “
Brown said he had written to Truss and to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to ask them to host an international donors’ conference “in January or no later than February” to break the deadlock.
Afghanistan’s former aid – dependent economy has been “in free fall”, according to the UN, and has fallen by about 40% since US and NATO forces withdrew last summer. International aid came to a halt almost overnight when the Taliban took over, while US economic sanctions targeting the group have further isolated the country.
“The devastation that the world was warned about months ago is no longer a distant prospect,” Brown wrote. UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths, Brown wrote, “predicts that if we do not act, 97% of Afghans will soon be living below the poverty line”.
About 90% of the country’s clinics “do not have the means to stay open” while the Covid crisis continues, the former prime minister said. Only 11% of Afghanistan’s population of about 40 million has been vaccinated.
“Aid workers now find children crammed under worn blankets in temporary camps and sheds or lying wrapped in their mothers’ burqas outside hospitals, waiting for treatment that is now simply not available,” Brown added.