Anticipating today’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Public Diplomacy Council President Sherry Lee Mueller shared a quote over the weekend:
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all of us indirectly.”
Contained in Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the words also apply today to the fate of starving Afghans in the 21st century who desperately seek help. The Council on Foreign Relations sums it all up in two compelling lead sentences and a pictorial essay:
“Millions of Afghans are struggling to survive after crucial foreign aid was halted due to the Taliban’s takeover. Images from Afghanistan show a catastrophe in a country already traumatized by decades of war.”
According to CFR author Lindsay Maizland and photo editor Sabine Baumgartner, “Afghanistan and its 38,000,000 citizens are facing starvation, the health system is collapsing, and wages are plummeting. “The country depended heavily on foreign aid before the Taliban came to power last August. Now, experts say, it has been devastated by a lack of international response to a hardline group’s lightening swift takeover.”
That has halted billions of aid dollars, and the Taliban’s blockage of foreign assistance has impeded relief work.
The CFR essay tells the story in a series of compelling photos taken in Afghanistan:
- Eight-year-old Usman has struggled to find food. As winter sets in, his family has sought to supply two meager daily meals of carrots, potatoes or bread.
- Fifty-seven-year old Kubra worries about her grandchildrens’ futures. “We got two sacks of flour last spring which we’re still using. After that, we have to have faith that God will help us.”
- A group of Afghans near the former U.S. Embassy last December are shown carrying a huge banner in the street emblazoned with a sentence in plain English: “Let us eat!!”
Additional U.S. help is on the way
On January 10, Washington announced an additional $308 million in emergency assistance to Afghanistan, the first substantial increase since the Taliban takeover in Kabul last August 15.
Newsweek magazine reports that the Afghan economy has been in what it characterized as a serious tailspin. Nearly 80% of Afghan’s operating expenses were financed by international donors under its previous government. And Newsweek adds that USAID, in announcing the expanded assistance, formally appealed to the Taliban to permit “unhindered humanitarian access” to civilians in Afghanistan, women and AID workers, especially women, and guarantee their safety.
Afghan poverty has soared since last summer, and is even worse amidst today’s brutal winter. The U.S. assistance is not enough to change the situation materially. The Taliban has appealed to the world community to release assistance funds to help stave off what it concedes is “a national disaster.”
Dr. King’s philosophy is universal; his values apply today in the case of Afghanistan. Further action on the part of Afghanistan’s rulers — and for other nations including the United States — is urgent.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More