The people of Afghanistan are in for a ‘very difficult year ahead’ warns USAID chief

The people of Afghanistan are in for a “very difficult year ahead,” Samantha Power, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has warned, as aid donors grapple with dealing with the Taliban and its human rights abuses.

The situation in Afghanistan has been made worse by the international community having to deal with more humanitarian crises around the world, as well the war in Ukraine, which has severely impacted food security.

“We are expecting a very difficult year ahead for the Afghan people,” Samantha Power told Reuters, adding noting the US had to divert money to respond to the war in Ukraine.

On the Taliban’s restrictions on women working as aid workers, Samantha Power said “We can never get used to this because it is both, of course, morally deplorable, but also it is so incredibly dumb”.

The United Nations will stay in Afghanistan to try to help millions of people in need, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged on Tuesday, but he said funding is drying up with a $4.6 billion U.N. appeal less than 7% funded.

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According to UN the US was the largest donor to the its appeal last year, giving nearly $1.2 billion. The US has given $75 million this year.

“It is really important this coming year that other countries step up with resources that go beyond what they were able to mobilize last year,” said Power, adding that U.S. funds were already being stretched by unexpected crises like the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and fighting in Sudan.

Asked if the Persian Gulf countries could do more to help Afghanistan, Power said: “That would be one obvious potential set of partners.”

The Taliban says it respects women’s rights in accordance with its strict interpretation of Islamic law. Taliban officials said decisions on female aid workers are an “internal issue.”

The United Nations has been trying to carve out exemptions in some areas for women to deliver aid, particularly in health and education. It says nearly three-quarters of the country’s 40 million people need humanitarian help.