Humanitarian Agencies Call for Aid Based on Afghans' Needs, Not the Military's
Aid agencies in Afghanistan call donors to meet the humanitarian needs of Afghans, outlined in a recently launched $870 million funding appeal.
As the US prepares to deploy additional
troops, the ACBAR coalition representing over 100 Afghan and
international aid agencies urged donors to address the need for
principled humanitarian assistance independent of political and
military goals, ranging from aid for refugees to mobile health services.
The 2010 Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) maps out a one-year strategy
for aid agencies to address lifesaving needs and fill the gaps that the
government is unable to meet. Weak institutions, corruption and
violence have limited the government's ability to provide for and
protect its citizens, including 5.5 million refugees who have returned
home and hundreds of thousands displaced by ongoing violence. A recent report by Oxfam International showed that Afghans viewed poverty as one of the main drivers of the conflict.
In 2009 nearly 200 million dollar in health, nutrition, mine action
and emergency shelter projects were not funded by donors. The funding
shortfalls have led to thousands of flood-affected people without
proper shelter for the harsh winter and unable to replant damaged
Alarming levels of child malnutrition
Despite this year's bumper harvest, millions of Afghans do not meet
their basic food requirements and child malnutrition is at alarming
levels. In November, a joint assessment conducted in a camp for
displaced people in Kabul showed that more than one in five children
screened were classified as acutely malnourished and had no access to
treatment. "Urgent action and effective nutrition surveillance in both
urban and rural areas is essential to prevent a crisis and also to
ensure that we are better able to respond to the needs of the people at
risk" said Shashwat Saraf, head of mission of Action Contre la Faim.
"Donors are not doing enough to meet the needs of Afghans," says Dr.
Habibullah Sahak, country director of Ibn Sina, an Afghan health
organization. "Health services have somewhat improved but over 200,000 children and 17,000 pregnant women continue to die each year , mostly because they lack basic healthcare, clean water and nutrition."
Aid representatives say that most aid money available for
Afghanistan requires working through the government or supporting
counterinsurgency operations. "Working with the government is the best
approach to sustainable development - if you have stability. With the
government coming under attack, it is becoming riskier to be associated
with its programs in some areas." said Laurent Saillard, Director of
Too much aid is tied to military operations
Humanitarian groups argue that too much aid goes to where troops are
located or is being used as part of the counterinsurgency strategy. "If
we are forced to be involved in counterinsurgency activities and work
with provincial reconstruction teams and military entities, our
acceptance in the communities will be compromised. This is a risk we
cannot take and as a result, we have turned down funding opportunities
which require working with the military and involvement in
counterinsurgency," said Lex Kassenberg, country director for CARE
The Pentagon has already doubled aid available to the U.S. military
in Afghanistan to $1.2 billion through the Commanders' Emergency
Response Program (CERP). USAID is also expected to channel the majority
of its funds to support counterinsurgency operations in the south and
east. Canada, which has troops in Kandahar, puts half of its funding
into the war torn province.
There is an urgent need to balance the aid funds with the military budgets. A conservative assessment shows that aid money coming to the country is less than 10% of the military spending by the troop-contributing nations .
"The military are part of the conflict so they are unable to provide
aid without jeopardizing the safety and security of civilians," said
Hashim Mayar, Deputy Director of ACBAR. "Aid should only be provided by
troops as a last resort to save lives, in accordance with
civil-military guidelines endorsed by both NATO and the Pentagon."
Download the report: The Cost of War: Afghan Experiences of Conflict, 1978 - 2009 .
Oxfam's emergency work in Afghanistan
Notes to editors
Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan relief (ACBAR) represents over 100
Afghan and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). ACBAR
facilitates coordination and information sharing for NGOs, the Afghan
government, UN and donors to ensure the efficient and effective use of
aid to the Afghan people at both regional and national level. ACBAR
also advocates on issues affecting the work of its members in
The Humanitarian Action Plan is an annual process managed by the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), whereby UN
agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) jointly strategize,
implement and monitor humanitarian programs. Project proposals are
screened and prioritized by technical working groups to be presented to
donors. Projects can be submitted throughout the year as new needs
Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.
"Anything other than sustained peace and at-scale emergency aid will mean catastrophe for the children of Gaza," said a UNICEF spokesperson.
Israel resumed its assault on the Gaza Strip Friday morning just minutes after the pause with Hamas officially expired, ending a fragile seven-day truce that created conditions for the release of hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian captives and allowed additional—but still inadequate—humanitarian aid to enter the besieged territory.
Gaza's health ministry said that Israel's post-pause airstrikes killed more than 30 people and wounded dozens more, hitting a multi-story residential building and other civilian infrastructure in the southern part of the strip, where many Gazans sought refuge as Israeli forces targeted the north in earlier stages of its attack.
The Associated Press reported that Israeli forces "dropped leaflets over parts of southern Gaza urging people to leave their homes, suggesting it was preparing to widen its offensive."
"The Israeli military also released a map carving up the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered parcels, and asked residents to learn the number associated with their location in case of an eventual evacuation," AP added. "It said the map would eventually be interactive, but it was not immediately clear how Palestinians would be updated on their designated parcel numbers and calls for evacuation."
Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Agence France-Presse that the resumption of bombing drags Gazans "back to the nightmarish situation they were in before the truce took place," with millions of people in desperate need of food, medicine, clean water, and sanitary living conditions .
"People are at a breaking point, hospitals are at a breaking point, the whole Gaza Strip is in a very precarious state," said Mardini. "There is nowhere safe to go for civilians. We have seen in the hospitals where our teams have been working, that over the past days, hundreds of severely injured people have arrived. The influx of severely wounded outpaced the real capacity of hospitals to absorb and treat the wounded, so there is a massive challenge."
James Elder, spokesperson for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), warned Friday that "the humanitarian situation in Gaza is so perilous that anything other than sustained peace and at-scale emergency aid will mean catastrophe for the children of Gaza."
"To accept the sacrifice of the children in Gaza is humanity giving up," said Elder. "This is our last chance, before we delve into seeking to explain yet another utterly avoidable tragedy."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is clinging to his job amid plummeting approval ratings, had pledged to continue assailing Gaza following the end of the truce, which marked the first pause in fighting since the war began in the wake of a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel in early October.
The Financial Times reported Friday that Israel's government is preparing for a war that "will stretch for a year or more, with the most intensive phase of the ground offensive continuing into early 2024."
"The multi-phase strategy envisages Israeli forces, who are garrisoned inside north Gaza, making an imminent push deep into the south of the besieged Palestinian enclave," FT reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the planning. "The goals include killing the three top Hamas leaders—Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Marwan Issa—while securing 'a decisive' military victory against the group's 24 battalions and underground tunnel network and destroying its 'governing capability in Gaza.'"
An investigation published Thursday by +972 Magazine and Local Call found that Israeli forces have used "expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets" and "the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties," as well as "an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever," to wage its devastating war on Gaza, killing more than 14,500 people in less than two months and displacing 70% of the territory's population.
In one case that anonymous Israeli sources described to the two outlets, Israel's military command "knowingly approved the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in an attempt to assassinate a single top Hamas military commander."
"Another reason for the large number of targets, and the extensive harm to civilian life in Gaza, is the widespread use of a system called 'Habsora' ('The Gospel'), which is largely built on artificial intelligence and can 'generate' targets almost automatically at a rate that far exceeds what was previously possible," +972 and Local Call found. "This AI system, as described by a former intelligence officer, essentially facilitates a 'mass assassination factory.'"
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly urged Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza during a meeting with the nation's leaders on Thursday, but the Israeli government has repeatedly brushed aside public and private concerns expressed by the Biden administration, which continues to provide unconditional support for the assault.
"Blinken suggested that his call for protecting Palestinian civilians had reached receptive ears, at least in general terms,"
The New York Times
reported. "He did not cite any specific commitments by Israel, however."
"Today is a good day for democracy in Michigan because more people will have a voice at the polls, in how our state is governed, and how our tax dollars are spent," said one campaigner.
On the heels of approving a clean energy package to combat the climate emergency, Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed a series of bills to tackle another urgent issue: voting rights.
"In Michigan, we're proving through our actions that we stand for fundamental American values of freedom and democracy," Whitmer
on social media. "Let's keep working to protect our democracy and ensure our elections are free, fair, and safe."
The governor held a signing ceremony at the NAACP building in Detroit, where she was joined by local leaders, voting rights advocates, and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who said that "we are here today to protect the people who protect democracy."
The package includes legislation to create criminal penalties for intimidating an election official or preventing them from performing their duties; allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote when they turn 18; and expand Michigan's automatic voter registration (AVR) process, according to Michigan Advance , which published a roundup of the bills.
"The job of election officials has increasingly become politicized. It's critical that we step up to protect their safety and their ability to do their jobs," asserted state Rep. Kara Hope (D-74), who led some of the bills. "These basic safeguards are critical to addressing the threats to our democracy as we head into 2024."
Aquene Freechild, co-director of Public Citizen's Democracy Campaign, said that "we applaud Michigan for prioritizing protecting election officials, and we're proud to support Rep. Hope and Secretary of State Benson in their efforts to address this threat to Michigan elections. We hope more states follow suit to protect these essential workers of American democracy."
As part of the AVR expansion, Michigan's secretary of state will now be required to coordinate with the state Department of Corrections to register people to vote when they are released from prison—a first for the country, according to Common Cause.
"Today is a good day for democracy in Michigan because more people will have a voice at the polls, in how our state is governed, and how our tax dollars are spent," said Common Cause Michigan executive director Quentin Turner. "Voting rights are under attack in many parts of our country, but today Michigan takes a step forward to expand access to the ballot. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and our democracy is stronger when more of us [are] able to cast a ballot."
The National Voting in Prison Coalition—founded by Common Cause and allied groups—plans to champion similar bills during other states' 2024 legislative sessions. Common Cause justice and democracy manager Keshia Morris Desir stressed Thursday that "federal and local laws must allow more voices to participate, be heard, and ultimately be represented."
Whitmer also signed legislation to "regulate political ads that use artificial intelligence and tighten the election certification process that former President Donald Trump tried to disrupt following his 2020 loss," reported Bridge Michigan .
State Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-75), who chairs the Michigan House Elections Committee, declared that "Michigan has sent a strong message that it rejects any attempts to deceive voters through the use of artificial intelligence."
Public Citizen said that Michigan is the fifth state to regulate artificial intelligence in election communications, and the legislation effectively bans " deepfakes ," which are AI-generated images, audio, or video of people that appear real.
"Thank you Michigan for showing that we don't have to stand helplessly aside as political deepfakes threaten to destroy voters' ability to distinguish authentic content from fraudulent audio, video, and pictures," said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Michigan's requirement that political deepfakes be labeled is an example for the rest of the nation—one we expect states across the country to follow."
As Bridge Michigan detailed:
The new law governing election certification aligns Michigan with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act , which was introduced in Congress with a handful of GOP co-sponsors and signed last year by Democratic President Joe Biden.
Among other things, the federal law makes clear that the vice president has a “ministerial” duty to count electoral votes that states send to Congress, contradicting Trump's claim that former Vice President Mike Pence could and should have blocked certification of the 2020 presidential election.
The new Michigan law similarly states that partisan election canvassers at both the county and state levels have a "ministerial, clerical, and nondiscretionary duty" to certify results based on results compiled by local clerks.
Biden is seeking reelection next year and could face Trump—despite the Republican's various criminal cases and arguments that he is constitutionally disqualified from holding office again after inciting the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
A year into Biden's presidency, Democratic right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)—who switched from Democrat to Independent last December— worked with Republicans in Congress to block a federal voting rights and election reform megabill that included the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act .
Democrats have reintroduced both of those bills this year, but they are highly unlikely to pass the split Senate or GOP-controlled House.
"Working people don't get to play by the same rules as billionaires. They don't get to call up an army of high-priced lawyers and accountants every time they don't feel like paying their taxes."
In a bid to "restore fairness to the tax code and level the playing field for working families," U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden on Thursday led 15 Senate colleagues in introducing the Billionaires Income Tax Act , legislation the Oregon Democrat said would "ensure billionaires start paying their fair share in taxes."
"Right now, the average billionaire can wriggle their way into a measly 8% tax rate while a nurse or firefighter making $45,000 is paying a 22% tax on their wages," Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said on the upper chamber floor.
"Tax laws simply don't apply to billionaires in the same way they do to everybody else," the senator continued. "They're optional, while everybody else's tax rules are mandatory."
"Working people don't get to play by the same rules as billionaires," he added. "They don't get to call up an army of high-priced lawyers and accountants every time they don't feel like paying their taxes."
That unjust disparity, Wyden said, boils down to three words: "Buy, borrow, die."
"Here's how it works: A billionaire buys a business, and then borrows against its growing, untaxed value to fund their extravagant lifestyle," he explained. "Everything from superyachts, to luxurious vacations, expensive art deals, you name it. It goes up and up in value all while not paying a dime in tax."
"And when they die," the lawmaker added, "their assets are passed to their kids—often entirely tax-free—and the cycle continues."
Wyden said his bill "will put a stop to" buy, borrow, die, "one of the most common schemes billionaires use to avoid paying their fair share."
The measure would raise an estimated $560 billion over 10 years from less than 1,000 of the wealthiest U.S. households.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of the bill's co-sponsors, said in a statement that "teachers and firefighters shouldn't be paying higher tax rates than the ultrawealthy. It's that simple."
Co-sponsor Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asserted that "for too long, billionaires have rigged the rules to cut their taxes to the bone, all while working families struggle to make ends meet."
"We should be investing in American families, not letting billionaires off the hook—and the Billionaires Income Tax takes an important step to make our tax system fairer," she added.
The Billionaires Income Tax Act is supported by more than 100 organizations.
Earlier this year, U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled a plan to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to 25%.
"A billionaire minimum tax of just 25% would raise $440 billion over the next 10 years," the president
on social media on Thursday. "Imagine what we could do if we just made billionaires pay their taxes like everyone else."
Wyden's bill was introduced on the same day that the advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness—which supports the legislation— reported that "the collective fortune of America's 741 billionaires has grown to $5.2 trillion at the end of November 2023, the highest amount ever recorded."
Also on Thursday, UBS published a report revealing that in the 12-month period between April 2022 and April 2023, newly created billionaires around the world acquired more wealth through inheritance than entrepreneurship for the first time since the Swiss bank began studying trends of the ultrawealthy in 2015.