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End the Economic Blockade of Afghanistan

Summary:
After two decades of war in Afghanistan, the international community must now unite to win a fragile peace. It should start by ending an economic and financial freeze that is destroying lives and robbing a generation of children of hope. LONDON – As the Western world emerges from a holiday season made less festive by COVID-19, millions of children in Afghanistan are starting 2022 facing the prospect of famine, illness, and a lost education. Seldom has a human tragedy been so extensively foretold. But the same governments now rushing to apply humanitarian bandages to Afghanistan’s open wounds are steadfastly refusing to switch on the economic life-support systems needed to avert catastrophe.

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After two decades of war in Afghanistan, the international community must now unite to win a fragile peace. It should start by ending an economic and financial freeze that is destroying lives and robbing a generation of children of hope.

LONDON – As the Western world emerges from a holiday season made less festive by COVID-19, millions of children in Afghanistan are starting 2022 facing the prospect of famine, illness, and a lost education. Seldom has a human tragedy been so extensively foretold. But the same governments now rushing to apply humanitarian bandages to Afghanistan’s open wounds are steadfastly refusing to switch on the economic life-support systems needed to avert catastrophe.

Even before the Taliban returned to power last August, Afghanistan topped the global roster of humanitarian emergencies. Successive droughts and escalating conflict had left one-third of the country’s population facing acute food insecurity. Aid agencies warned that they were in a race against time as winter approached. Now, the United Kingdom’s Disasters Emergency Committee believes that the race is close to being lost.

The numbers are harrowing. Some 23 million people in a country of 39 million are in a state of humanitarian emergency. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that over one million Afghan children are at risk of dying from malnutrition and hunger-related disease.

Human development is in freefall as the gains of the last two decades unravel. The donor-financed Sehatmandi health program, which provides vital child and maternal health services across 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, is under immense pressure, putting fragile gains in child survival at risk. An education system that had served nine million children, including 3.6 million girls, and provided employment opportunities to female teachers now is crumbling.

Some of the blame for Afghanistan’s unfolding crisis rests squarely with the new Taliban government. Policymaking is mired in abject confusion, and factional disagreements have stymied the humanitarian response. The decision to prohibit girls from attending secondary school, which the Taliban now denies is official policy, undermines the national self-interest, and mixed messages on women’s...

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