A woman sits with her children along the roadside covered with snow in Kabul. AFP
The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a US-proposed resolution that facilitates humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which is on the verge of economic collapse, while keeping funds out of Taliban hands.
The resolution is a first step by the UN after months of wrangling over how to avert a humanitarian catastrophe amid economic meltdown in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept back to power in mid-August.
Since then, billions of dollars in aid and assets have been frozen by the West in what the UN has described as an "unprecedented fiscal shock" to the aid-dependent Afghan economy, and the nation is in the middle of a bitter winter.
For months now, observers have been warning that millions face a choice between starvation or migration during a combined food, fuel and cash crisis.
Resolution on aid 'a good step'
The Taliban government praised the UN Security Council's resolution facilitating humanitarian aid to Afghanistan as a "good step," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
"We appreciate it (as) it can help Afghanistan's economic situation," Mujahid said, adding he hoped the move would also help "speed up" the removal of crippling economic and banking sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Islamist group.
The Security Council resolution states that "payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted."
Such assistance is "not a violation" of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban, whose regime is not yet recognised by the international community, it adds.
An earlier US resolution had sought to authorise case-by-case exemptions to sanctions, but that was blocked by veto-wielding permanent Security Council members China and Russia.
"Humanitarian aid and life-saving assistance must be able to reach the Afghan people without any hindrance," China's UN Ambassador, Zhang Jun, said in a tweet on Monday.
'Possible to reverse'
The decision to limit the scope of the resolution to one year, which was not part of the first draft, aims to satisfy Washington's European allies, who, like India, had criticised the absence of any deadline and called for strict control over the destination of aid.
"If there is evidence that the exemption is being abused or that money is reaching sanctioned individuals, it is possible to reverse it," a diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity earlier this week.
Afghan children are covered with a blanket as their families camp outside the Directorate of Disaster in Herat. AP
In Afghanistan, aid workers may be involved in financial transactions with ministries headed by sanctioned individuals. The resolution ensures that the aid workers are not violating sanctions.
The text also includes monitoring of the destination of aid, as well as a UN report on the functioning of the assistance every six months.
UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, emphasized the urgent "need for liquidity and stabilisation of the banking system" on Sunday at a ministerial meeting in Pakistan.
He argued it was "not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organisations to respond."
After the Taliban returned to power, the US froze nearly $9.5 billion from the Afghan central bank and the World Bank also suspended aid to Kabul.
On Wednesday, Russia called for the West to unfreeze such assets.
The World Bank announced on Dec.10 that it would provide $280 million in humanitarian aid to UNICEF and the World Food Programme by the end of December, to be distributed in Afghanistan.Agence France-Presse
Taliban spokesman for the Higher Education Ministry Ahmad Taqqi said in a video clip. “The education will continue based on the plans and policies of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
Imran Khan says he has "initiated a dialogue" with the Taliban to prod them to form an inclusive government that would ensure peace and stability not only in Afghanistan but also in the region.
"Today I have been heartbroken to see that the families are willing to sell their children to feed other family members,” Charles said. "So it’s the right time for the humanitarian community to stand up and stay with the people of Afghanistan.”
Heartrending scenes of a newborn plucked alive from the rubble and a broken father clutching his dead daughter's hand have laid bare the human cost of violent earthquakes in Syria and Turkey that by Wednesday had claimed 11,000 lives.
The Fire broke out over an area of about 100 square metres and was extinguished around an hour later, Interfax news agency reported, adding that the small refinery belonged to a company called Resource LLC.
Pope Francis offered his prayers for the thousands of victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey on Wednesday and called on the international community to continue to support rescue and recovery efforts.