The United States extends its deepest sympathy to the victims of the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan.
Preliminary reports indicate that at least 1,000 people were killed June 23rd and hundreds more injured in Paktika and Khost Provinces. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, “The people of Afghanistan have undergone extraordinary hardship, and this natural disaster compounds an already dire humanitarian situation. U.S. humanitarian partners are already responding, including by sending medical teams to help people affected, and we are assessing other response options.” On June 28, the U.S. announced nearly $55 million in funding to meet acute humanitarian needs following the earthquake and broader humanitarian needs throughout Afghanistan.
This latest earthquake is far from the sole cause of misery for the Afghan people. During a recent U.N. Security Council briefing on Afghanistan, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths noted that dramatic shifts in Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape last August have brought unrelenting human suffering. Now 25 million people in Afghanistan are living in poverty — more than double from 2011. In addition, the human rights situation has deteriorated with devastating speed since the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
At the briefing, U.S. Acting Minister Counselor for Political Affairs Trina Saha called the present situation “a perilous moment for Afghanistan....Space for members of the media to do their work is shrinking, while threats facing members of religious and ethnic minority groups are on the rise,” she said. “And ordinary people all over the world have decried the decrees the Taliban has issued depriving women and girls of their dignity,” including by barring their access to education above the 6th grade and by imposing draconian dress and travel rules.
The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, and since last August, it has committed more than $775 million through its humanitarian partners. Acting Minister Saha urged others in the international community to step up their humanitarian assistance. “The United States,” she declared, “remains ever committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan.”