UK pledges additional £97 million aid to Afghanistan

This month the UN launched a $4.4 bn appeal to help alleviate a worsening economic and food crisis that has left many with nothing to eat this winter

The Taliban's sweep to power in Afghanistan in August drove billions of dollars in international assistance out of the country and sent an already dirt-poor poor nation, ravaged by war, drought and floods, spiralling toward a humanitarian catastrophe. AP

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced on Thursday an extra £97 million ($130m) of funding for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. The emergency aid will be used to provide life-saving food and emergency health support for over 2.7m people as fears mount the country is facing a humanitarian catastrophe. It brings the UK’s aid commitment to Afghanistan up to £286m this financial year, following allocations made in September, October and December last year.

The relief comes amid a worsening crisis in Afghanistan, which the World Food Programme has said could leave 23m people, more than half the population, facing acute hunger this winter. Earlier this month the UN launched a $4.4 billion aid appeal for Afghanistan, its biggest such fundraising effort, as fears persist that aid flows could bolster Taliban hardliners.

UK funds will be primarily channelled through the UN Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, WFP and the UN children’s fund, said the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The aid will not go directly to the Taliban.

“The UK continues to provide vital humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. We have doubled UK aid this year to save lives, protect women and girls and support stability in the region. The funds announced today will mean essential food, shelter and health supplies will reach those who are most in need,” said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

The FCDO said the aid would go to sustaining more than 60 hospitals and ensuring 4.47m people receive emergency food assistance through the World Food Programme. It will also help to provide 6.1m people with emergency health, water, protection, shelter, food, and education support through the UN Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund.

Earlier this week, the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nigel Casey and other government officials joined a meeting of US and European Special Representatives for Afghanistan in Oslo to discuss economic and humanitarian issues, security and counter-terrorism, and human rights. British officials said they made clear to the Taliban delegation their “serious concerns” about human rights, particularly in relation to those of women and girls.

Norwegian state secretary Henrik Thune said there were a list of “tangible demands” on the table in talks with the Taliban over humanitarian aid and the fate of billions of dollars in frozen funds.

The demands are expected to include a call for delivering humanitarian aid directly to the Afghan people, and raise the plight of two women activists who went missing in Kabul last week after taking part in a demonstration. The Taliban have denied responsibility.

As well as providing food, shelter and healthcare, the FCDO said, the UK’s financial aid would also be used to help survivors of gender-based violence and to fund essential child protection services. Aid agencies will also give priority to those most at risk, including households headed by women and people with disabilities, they said.

Earlier this week, the UK government passed legislation that would allow a humanitarian exception from UN sanctions meaning aid agencies can operate without fear of undue legal repercussions. Previously, charities and humanitarian agencies trying to bring aid into Afghanistan faced legal difficulties as a result of UN sanctions against senior Taliban leaders.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 12:01 AM