Countries worldwide — including Australia, China, Taiwan, Britain, Pakistan, and Qatar — have answered distressed calls for humanitarian assistance in the wake of June 22’s 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan, which left over 1,150 people dead.
The deadliest earthquake in 20 years hit the impoverished Gayan district in southern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.
In the days that followed, China vowed to send US$7.5 million in aid, alongside tents, towels, and beds, while Britain pledged $3 million, Taiwan $1 million, and the European Union more than $1 million. Critical supplies from Pakistan, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and Iran were shipped almost immediately, while Australia promised to send AU$1 million in emergency relief.
"The earthquake has caused extensive loss of life, homes, and livelihoods, with the full effects still to be determined,” Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said in a press release. “This tragedy comes at a time when the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are greater than ever.”
India, meanwhile, has sent a technical team to Kabul, alongside 27 tons of supplies.
The donor funds and relief items are expected to be distributed through the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations on the ground, with support from the Taliban, the militant Islamist movement that has ruled Afghanistan since mid-last year.
The militant group has thus far pledged 1 billion afghanis for earthquake victims.
The devastation in Afghanistan following the magnitude 6.1 earthquake is heartbreaking.— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) June 22, 2022
My condolences to the people of Afghanistan & the Australian-Afghan community, who have lost so many brothers and sisters today.
Australia will work with partners to respond to this crisis.
Notably absent from the list of aid-giving nations is the United States.
Last year, the US imposed sanctions on Afghanistan after the Taliban violently took over the country, including freezing assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. While some funds have since been released — namely to be spent between American victims of terrorism and humanitarian efforts — much of restrictions remain in place.
"In these testing times, we call on the United States to release Afghanistan's frozen assets and lift sanctions on Afghan banks so that aid agencies could easily deliver assistance to Afghanistan,” Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Saturday, according to VOA News.
Prior to the Taliban takeover, around 75% of Afghanistan’s public spending budget was funded by the US and other Western countries. After the takeover, funding was largely cut as the international community fought to limit the Taliban’s control, citing fears of misuse.
Some humanitarian aid has continued, however, with the US consistently the largest donor.
By the end of this year, the United Nations estimates 97% of Afghanistan’s 40 million population will live under the global poverty line of less than $1.90 per day. Aid organizations fear that the most vulnerable will also be susceptible to delays in education and healthcare due to earthquake-damaged roads, water, and hygiene facilities.
The United Nation’s Humanitarian Affairs body specifically warned of a potential cholera outbreak.