Promises of reconstruction and humanitarian aid for Afghanistan have so far fallen short of the $1.8 billion pledged for this year by the international community at the Tokyo meeting in January. The newly established government, led by President Hamid Karzai, has only received approximately $600 million, and most of that funding has been for emergency humanitarian aid, rather than funds for reconstruction of the country. In addition, some Afghans claim that the aid is not being distributed properly. While 95 percent of rural Afghans lack clean drinking water and 83 percent lack medical care, salaries for English-speaking Afghan office workers and expatriate staff have gone up considerably, as have rents for housing and offices in Kabul, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
Despite the tremendous need for resources in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush has refused to allow additional aid appropriated by Congress tp be sent. Last week, Bush rejected more than $170 million earmarked for Afghanistan, including $2.5 million for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as part of the $5.1 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriation package already approved by Congress. Following Bush’s veto, the United Nations World Food Program announced that because they are short more than $90 million in promised funding from donor countries, they have been forced to cut food aid for Afghanistan.
Security in Afghanistan remains a problem as well. A bombing last week blamed on remaining Taliban forces severely damaged the only girls’ school in the town of Ghazni, west of Kabul, according to Reuters. Following the bombing, leaflets were distributed in the town warning residents that women would be killed if the school were to be reopened. The attack closely followed an incident at a US Special Forces base in Ghazni in which several rockets were fired at the compound. There were no casualties in either attack. In addition, there were bombings earlier this month at the United Nations guesthouse in Kabul and outside the Afghan Ministry of Communications, both causing minor damage and no casualties. However, these bombings indicate that members of the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to operate in Afghanistan, both inside and outside of Kabul. Despite the security problems in Afghanistan and bipartisan support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the US continues to refuse to support the expansion of international peacekeeping forces beyond Kabul.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .