The regional director of the International Federation of the Red Cross said that severe financial shortages with the onset of winter could lead to a “major humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan, if wages and services are not resumed.
Alexander Mathew said Afghanistan was preparing for “extremely difficult months” as temperatures cooled, exacerbating food shortages caused by drought and poverty. And cuts to health services will put many vulnerable Afghans, particularly in rural areas, at risk.
The warning comes as Taliban authorities quickly dispersed, with gunfire, a protest led by women demanding equal rights to education in Kabul. Posters carried by a small group of women were confiscated saying “Don’t burn our books!” Protests by armed men were also banned, on the grounds that the women had not requested permission to gather.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has appealed for 36 million Swiss francs ($38 million) to continue funding health clinics, emergency relief and other services in 16 Afghan provinces.
Matthew spoke at a news conference in Kabul a day after UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric asked donors to speed up funding for a $606 million flash appeal that was only 22 percent funded to help 11 million Afghans for the remainder of the year.
“There has to be some solution to the financial flows into Afghanistan to ensure that salaries can at least be paid, and basic supplies, electricity and water, are two of them,” Matthew added. He added that the primary health system needs additional funding sources independent of the group to continue operating.
Matthew pointed out that the cuts to health care have led to 2,500 health facilities not working, and more than 20,000 health workers, 7,000 of whom are women, not receiving their salaries.
On the other hand, Matthew said that the diplomatic missions remaining in Kabul since the Taliban seized power have taken a pragmatic approach to help.
He said, “The missions that are here, I would like to say briefly that they are geared towards a pragmatic adaptation to the reality as it is now, and they are not strict about the conditions of support that exist in some missions outside the country.” Matthew met in Kabul with representatives from Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey and Russia.
He added, “We are unequivocal about supporting women’s rights, and we have no doubts about the universality of that, but as service providers, we put the preservation of life first.”