U.S. Gives $308M, 1M COVID Vaccines to Afghanistan Through Humanitarian Groups

The United States government announced on Tuesday they're giving Afghanistan one million COVID-19 vaccines and $308 million in aid through humanitarian groups to help the country that has been in crisis in recent months.

President Joe Biden's administration announced the new multi-million dollar assistance package, which brings the U.S. total to $780 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan since the U.S. pulled out of the country resulting in the Taliban takeover in August.

The government said the $308 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development will be given to independent humanitarian groups.

The organizations plan to use the donations for emergency food aid, water, hygiene services, sanitation, healthcare, shelter, and winter necessities including clothes and shoes, said Emily Horne, the White House national security council spokesperson.

The White House also said they're coordinating with the World Health Organization COVAX initiative to send an additional one million COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan. The U.S. will have sent 4.3 million doses to the region, which has been greatly impacted by the pandemic.

The United Nations said the country is in dire need of resources and assistance. Roughly 22 percent of the 38 million people living in Afghanistan face food shortages near-famine levels and 36 percent are suffering from acute food insecurity.

The United Nations said on Tuesday the country needs $4.4 billion in funding for their Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan. It's the largest request ever made for a country.

United States Giving Afghanistan Aid
The United States government announced on Tuesday to give Afghanistan 1 million COVID-19 tests and $308 million in humanitarian aid. Above, ground staff workers unload and prepare to transport a shipment of covid-19 coronavirus vaccine donated by the Chinese government at the Kabul airport in Kabul on December 8, 2021. Ahmad Sahel Arman/ AFP/Getty Images

The country's long-troubled economy has been in a tailspin since the Taliban takeover. Nearly 80 percent of Afghanistan's previous government's budget came from the international community. That money, now cut off, financed hospitals, schools, factories and government ministries.

Desperation for such basic necessities has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as health care shortages, drought and malnutrition.

The USAID called on the Taliban to allow "all aid workers, especially women ... to operate independently and securely" as humanitarian groups look to assist those suffering.

"The United States continues to urge the Taliban to allow unhindered humanitarian access, safe conditions for humanitarians, independent provision of assistance to all vulnerable people, and freedom of movement for aid workers of all genders," the agency said in a statement.

"Events in Afghanistan over the past year have unfolded with dizzying speed and with profound consequences for the Afghan people," said Martin Griffiths, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. "The world is perplexed and looking for the right way to react. Meanwhile, a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms."

International funding to Afghanistan was suspended and billions of dollars of the country's assets abroad, mostly in the United States, were frozen after the Taliban took control of the country in mid-August.

The decision by the U.S. and the international community not to recognize the Taliban government, which governed with a strict interpretation of Islamic law when it was in control from 1996 to 2001, has created a quandary for Western powers about how to provide enough aid without giving the Taliban legitimacy or putting money directly into its hands.

The lack of funding has led to increased poverty, and aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. State employees, from doctors to teachers and administrative civil servants, haven't been paid in months. Banks, meanwhile, have restricted how much money account holders can withdraw.

The Taliban have called on the international community to release funds and help stave off a humanitarian disaster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Afghanistan nurse aide covid humanitarian taliban
A nurse checks the weight of a child in a makeshift clinic organized by World Vision at a settlement near Herat, Afghanistan, December 16, 2021. In a statement January 11, 2022, the White House announced $308 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, offering new aid to the country as it edges toward a humanitarian crisis since the Taliban takeover nearly five months earlier. Mstyslav Chernov/Associated Press