President Bush today announced $295 million in new humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and Afghan refugees, making his total aid package $320 million. The President stated that “America will stand strong and will oppose the sponsors of terror, and America will stand strong to help those people who are hurt by those regimesÉ.We have great compassionÉfor the millions around the world who are victims of hate, victims of oppressive government, including the people who live in Afghanistan.” The aid will be distributed through the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations working in the area to provide food and medicine. The new aid represents slightly more than one-half of the United Nation’s requested $584 million.
The Feminist Majority has been leading the drive to increase humanitarian aid. “We are very pleased the Bush Administration has significantly increased U.S. aid commitment,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “Earlier in the week, it was reported that the Administration was going to provide only $100 million in new aid. Providing one-half of the UN appeal sets a leadership example for the rest of the world. This emergency humanitarian aid package is essential to save the lives of millions of innocent Afghans, especially women and children, many of whom are near starvation, without shelter, and without healthcare. Moreover, the provision of humanitarian aid to alleviate the desperate conditions of impoverishment is absolutely crucial to ending terrorism. But this assistance is only a beginning to address the massive needs. We also support Senator Biden’s proposal that at least $1 billion in humanitarian aid is immediately needed. In addition, we are also urging a U.S. long-term commitment for the rebuilding of Afghanistan as a democracy in which women’s rights are restored and women play a leadership role.”
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) yesterday made an appeal to the Bush administration to authorize $1 billion in relief aid to Afghanistan given the breadth of the humanitarian crisis for the Afghan people. Millions of Afghans, mostly women and children, face starvation as food supplies are dwindling, the worst drought in 30 years continues, and a harsh winter quickly approaches. Refugees are also in dire need of aid as conditions for them are usually little better than those faced in Afghanistan.
The United Nations expects that the total number of Afghans in need of humanitarian assistance soon will be at least 7.5 million. This estimate includes 1.2 million who are internally displaced and have left their homes to find food and shelter, another 4.2 million who are internally stranded and without adequate resources to survive, and tens of thousand who have fled to neighboring countries since September 11. The estimate also includes some 2 million vulnerable refugees who have already fled Afghanistan. Currently, there are already 3.5 million refugees in Pakistan, 1.5 million in Iran, and at least 200,000 in other neighboring countries. Seventy-five percent of refugees are women and children.