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October-10-01

Congressional Testimony of E. Smeal on the Plight of Afghan Women - Part II

<< Part I

We applaud the work of the United Nations’ agencies, especially the World Food Program, in Afghanistan. But for years they have been forced to underestimate the needs of Afghan refugees and Afghan people because of the lack of donor nation response. Prior to September 11, we heard constantly of donor nation exhaustion. Consequently, the United Nations appeals have tended to be very modest. Although the most recent consolidated appeal is considerably more than in the past, we believe it still underestimates the real needs in several important respects:

· First, the United Nations only counts as refugees and provides assistance to those who live in the refugee camps. However, almost half of the refugees in Pakistan – approximately 1.5 million – live outside of camps. These desperate refugees, who live in cities and villages in Pakistan, mostly belong to the Hazara, Uzbek, and Tajik ethnic minorities who have been most persecuted by the Taliban and who fear the Pashtun-dominated camps in which the Taliban has had influence. These urban refugees receive virtually no assistance from the UN, and are in desperate need of food, health care, and education programs.

· Second, the current appeal provides very little for health or education. Only 3% of the United Nations appeal is devoted to health. Nor are sufficient funds for education inside and outside of the camps being requested in the appeal. Education is less than 1% of the United Nations appeal. Education is not a luxury, but a core component of ending terrorism and promoting democracy. We cannot lose a generation of Afghan girls and boys. Education for refugee girls is necessary to make up for the denial of education under the Taliban, and to make possible the participation of young women in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The availability of education for boys is necessary to counteract the madrassas (so-called religious schools) which are the source of foot soldiers for the Taliban.

· Finally, the UN Appeal provides only 6 months of bare subsistence rations. Of the food and support needs of $188 million, the commodities included are only wheat, vegetable oil, pulses (lentils), salt, wheat/soy blend, sugar, and high energy biscuits.

We appreciate that on October 4th President Bush announced a commitment of an additional $295 million in U.S. emergency humanitarian aid to suffering people in Afghanistan and to Afghan refugees. This emergency humanitarian package is a critically needed escalation of aid that will help save the lives of millions of innocent Afghans, especially women and children, many of whom are near starvation in pre-famine condition, without shelter, and without healthcare.

The United States' leadership in meeting a significant portion of the United Nations $584 million appeal for emergency assistance is very heartening. However, we believe that the needs of Afghan refugees are even more massive and that our government must do even more to meet them.

We commend and support the call of the Chairman of this Committee, Senator Joseph Biden, for a multi-billion dollar infusion of humanitarian relief for Afghanistan and for the surrounding region to address refugees’ humanitarian needs and to sustain long-term reconstruction efforts. His leadership and vision in this call are timely and extremely needed.

Our understanding is that of the funds that have recently been announced by President Bush, a yet to be determined portion will go towards the UN appeal for UN sponsored humanitarian aid and another portion of funds will go to programs carried out by other international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

No funds, however, are scheduled to be granted directly to women-led NGOs. I would like to stress the importance of the U.S. providing direct funding to Afghan women led NGOs. Humanitarian funds from the United States and the United Nat

Media Resources: Feminist Majority


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