Acting State Department Spokesperson Charles F. Hunter announced yesterday that $27 million from the State Department’s Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund has been authorized “to respond to unexpected and urgent humanitarian emergencies in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Eritrea and Afghanistan.” $6.5 million of these new funds will be allocated to assist displaced Afghans in the South Asian region, including Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, and $5 million will be on reserve for immediate response to unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs.
These funds will help to relieve the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans escaping from the barbaric treatment of the Taliban regime and the worst drought to hit the region in thirty years. Many have fled to Pakistan where they have only found death and starvation in refugee camps. Women have suffered disproportionately under the military rule of the Taliban which has enforced restrictive decrees banning women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative, ban women and girls from attending school, and have even denied women the right to work to feed their starving children.
The emergency aid for refugees that was announced yesterday is in addition to the $43 million in assistance for internally displaced Afghans announced in May by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. In his May announcement, Secretary Powell stated explicitly that the aid would be dispensed through the United Nations and NGOs, not through the Taliban.
The Feminist Majority has been urging the increase of humanitarian assistance to Afghans, especially women and children who are at peril for their lives. At the urging of the Feminist Majority, 13 U.S. Senators, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), sent a letter to Secretary of State Powell urging the provision of emergency assistance to help both internally displaced Afghans and Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.
The Feminist Majority has also been working with Senator Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) and Senator Feinstein to develop legislation which would provide more funding for health and education programs and income generation for programs to help women and their families in Afghanistan and living as refugees in Pakistan. Thousands of individuals have already sent letters, petitions, and e-mails through FM’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan. Urge Congress to increase funds to help Afghan women and girls from our Take Action Center.