As Afghan officials appeal for humanitarian aid following the earthquake that rocked the country's east, calls urging the US to return Afghanistan's frozen assets grow.
The devastating earthquake, which has left over 1,100 people dead in Afghanistan, has revived calls for return of Afghan foreign reserves from the US, as the war-torn nation struggles to meet immediate needs.
On Friday, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying joined calls urging Washington to release the frozen assets of Afghanistan, which saw the complete withdrawal of US-led foreign forces last August.
“Saw US officials claim that the US ‘stands with the people of Afghanistan’,” tweeted Hua, asking: “Then why not give the $7 billion back to the Afghans?”
A deadly overnight earthquake of 6.1 magnitude has left 1,150 people dead since Tuesday, while over 1,600 others have been wounded in the country's east along the border with Pakistan.
According to estimates by the EU commissioner for crisis management, around 270,000 people living in the affected areas will require assistance.
Entire villages have been levelled in some of the worst affected districts, where survivors said they were even struggling to find equipment to bury their dead.
"There are no blankets, tents, there's no shelter. Our entire water distribution system is destroyed. There is literally nothing to eat," 21-year-old Zaitullah Ghurziwal said.
Search and rescue operation concludes in quake-hit Afghanistan, total death toll at 1,000 and 10,000 houses partially or completely destroyed – official pic.twitter.com/466gIkfHHo— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) June 24, 2022
Nations rush emergency aid to Afghanistan
While the Taliban have announced an aid package of over $11 million (1 billion Afghanis) for the victims, the Afghan officials have made an appeal for contributions from other nations and international partners.
The Joe Biden administration has decided to divide the withheld $7 billion in Afghan reserves among victims of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and return only half of the total reserves to Kabul.
Afghanistan was already facing a dire humanitarian situation due to 20-year-old US invasion of the country.
In view of the dire situation created by floods and earthquake which has triggered critical need for humanitarian assistance, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, an Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the interim Taliban administration “again urges the US to remove sanctions on the Afghan banking system so that the humanitarian aid delivery process is expedited and made easier.
Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, and India have sent emergency aid to the country, while self-ruled Taiwan has pledged to donate $1 million to the victims of the earthquake.
Non-governmental organisations from Türkiye were among the first responders to the devastating situation in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake.
EU commissioner Janez Lenarcic said the group has mobilised an initial $1.05 million (€1 million) in emergency support to Afghanistan.
Beijing-shipped food has arrived in Afghanistan and is being distributed, the country’s foreign ministry said.
UNICEF said it is continuing to bring critical aid to families affected by the earthquake.