Are US-led sanctions worsening Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis?

International aid organisations and experts say the US-led sanctions on the Taliban government are hurting the Afghan people, and called for “explicit humanitarian exemptions” for the delivery of aid to prevent a “catastrophe”.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, the aid-dependent country was cut off from international financial institutions, while nearly $10bn of its assets were frozen by the US, triggering a banking crisis.

Millions of dollars in international aid were also halted due to the sanctions.

The UN and other aid agencies have been trying to navigate the sanctions to deliver much-needed aid to the country, with more than half of Afghanistan’s 38 million population facing imminent food shortages in the harsh winter months.

“The US government, and other sanctions imposing entities like the UN Security Council (UNSC), should do all they can to ensure that Afghans have access to the humanitarian assistance to which they are entitled,” said Eileen McCarthy, the Advocacy Manager at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

‘Humanitarian catastrophe preventable’

More than 100 days into the Taliban’s rule, Afghanistan’s economy has nearly collapsed, for which the UN envoy for Afghanistan blamed on the financial sanctions. Deborah Lyons told the UNSC last week that the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the country was “preventable”.

There have been alarming reports of public hospitals unable to afford essential medical supplies or to pay staff salaries, and families offering their young daughters for marriage in return for a brideprice to help them survive.

The Taliban government, which has not been recognised by any country or the United Nations, has banned foreign currency among other measures to revive the economy, but the sudden drying up of millions of dollars in aid flow crippled banks and businesses and sent food and fuel prices rocketing.

While they blame the unfolding crisis on the Taliban for not pursuing a political settlement, experts say Afghanistan’s crisis was the result of international sanctions, making millions of dollars of aid that supported the previous West-backed Afghan government inaccessible to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.

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