GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior Red Cross official said he was furious that sanctions and donor freezes are cutting off basic services in Afghanistan, and he called on donors to find creative ways to prevent a “massive humanitarian crisis”.
Humanitarian workers say that U.N. and unilateral sanctions on the Islamist Taliban, which seized power in August, are causing confusion and hesitation among donors despite some efforts to grant licenses to ease aid flows.
Dominik Stillhart, operators director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the charity this week began paying salaries and distributing medical supplies to 18 medical facilities in Afghanistan to prevent them from collapsing.
“I am livid,” he said on Monday in a statement from Kabul after a six-day field visit to hospitals.
“As winter sets in, policies that were meant to avoid supporting those in power are now instead freezing out millions of Afghans from the very basic needs they require to survive.”
Salaries in government-run hospitals have been unpaid for months, meaning the nurses who have not abandoned their posts are walking to work for two hours because they cannot afford transport, Stillhart told journalists.
“Every single person I spoke to, be it hospital staff, patients, people in the street – they are seriously worried about how to make ends meet in the coming months,” he said after a visit to a pediatric ward in Kandahar Province.
Cases of severe malnutrition, pneumonia and dehydration have doubled since August and September in the facility, where up to three children are squeezed in each bed, he added.
Stillhart urged donors to find “creative solutions”, saying the formation of a trust fund might help get money flowing.
“… Pulling the plug, turning off the generator and throwing away the key in my view is a recipe for disaster.”
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Mark Heinrich)