Thu, 18 Aug 2022

UN Appeals for $110 Million for Afghan Quake Response

Voice of America
28 Jun 2022, 07:06 GMT+10

The United Nations made an urgent appeal Monday for $110.3 million to provide livesaving assistance to more than 360,000 Afghans who were affected last week by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake that killed about 1,000 people, including 150 children.

The funding is required in the next three months to meet pressing humanitarian needs, prevent more deaths and help rebuild homes and communities shattered by the disaster.

The earthquake destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in several districts in Paktika and Khost provinces, according to aid agencies and Taliban officials.

"I'm appealing to the world - please help. We need money. We need funding. We need support to resolve this tragedy," Ramiz Alakbarov, U.N. resident relief coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a video message while visiting an area in Paktika province hard hit by the earthquake.

More than half of the appealed funding, if provided by donors, will be spent on emergency shelters and non-food items, while about $35 million will go to emergency food and health care needs.

Several countries in the region, including the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, India and China, have responded to the disaster with planes loaded with tents, clothes, medical supplies and food items. The United States has also pledged aid.

"U.S. humanitarian partners are already responding, including by sending medical teams to help people affected, and we are assessing other response options," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement June 22, the day the earthquake was reported.

The quake response appeal is separate from the 2022 Afghanistan humanitarian appeal of $4.4 billion, the largest single-country appeal the U.N. has ever launched. Halfway through the year, donors have pledged less than 34% of the humanitarian appeal. With a $459.6 million commitment, the U.S. is on top of the donor list.

Online funding temporarily on hold

Hours after the earthquake was reported, online campaigns appeared on social platforms calling for aid.

Over the past five days, at least 120 individual calls for funding have been launched on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, raising more than $500,000 from international donors.

However, some of the funds cannot be transferred to banks in Afghanistan due to U.S. sanctions on the Taliban.

"We've raised a lot of money thanks to the goodwill of people, but we cannot move the funds because of politics and bureaucracy," Ajmal Ziarmal, who has raised more than $26,000 on GoFundMe, told VOA.

"People have lost their loved ones, their homes and everything they had, and they should not be further punished for politics," he added.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe offered sympathies to the Afghan quake victims but said some of the funds raised on the platform are temporarily on hold.

"Where funds are temporarily on hold, it generally means that we are ensuring a clear path to a beneficiary has been established and that the fundraiser is compliant with GoFundMe's Terms of Service and international laws and regulations," the spokesperson told VOA.

People reach out to receive bread in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2022. People reach out to receive bread in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2022.

Online Crowdfunding Campaigns Struggle with Restrictions on Afghanistan

The California-based for-profit platform has been encouraging donors to make their contributions to verified campaigners whose accounts are not subject to transfer restrictions. As of June 27, nine verified campaigners have solicited funds for the quake response.

FILE - A Taliban fighter stands at a check point in Herat, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2021. FILE - A Taliban fighter stands at a check point in Herat, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2021.

Explaining US Sanctions Against Taliban

The U.S. has issued humanitarian waivers for financial transactions with Afghanistan particularly when the aid does not directly benefit the Taliban. But aid agencies say they still face significant obstacles and delays in banking with the country.

"(T)he formal banking system continues to block transfers due to excessive de-risking, impacting payment channels and causing breakdowns in supply chains," Martin Griffiths, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, told the Security Council last week.

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