‘Unfreeze’ funds to pay Afghan teachers and health workers

As the World Bank held its annual meeting on Wednesday, women’s rights advocates gathered outside the headquarters of the powerful institution in Washington, DC, to demand the release of frozen Afghan funds for teachers and health workers. who try to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan can be paid.

“After 20 years of military operations that killed tens of thousands of Afghans, the United States should not retaliate against the Afghan people.”

CodePink, a women-led peace group and member of the new Unfreeze Afghanistan coalition behind Wednesday’s press conference, said in a statement that “after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, states United have frozen nearly $ 10 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. and stopped the shipments of cash to the country. “

“The International Monetary Fund has frozen the distribution of more than $ 400 million intended for Covid relief and the World Bank is withholding hundreds of millions in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund,” CodePink noted. “Foreign aid to Afghanistan previously amounted to around $ 8.5 billion a year, almost half of the country’s gross domestic product, and the freezing of funds has been disastrous for the Afghan people.

Unfreeze Afghanistan calls on the Taliban to reopen all schools for boys and girls across the country, but it also stresses that international financial institutions – where the United States plays a disproportionate role – must allow the reopening and operation of these schools by disbursing frozen funds. funds.

“After 20 years of military operations that killed tens of thousands of Afghans, the United States should not retaliate against the Afghan people for their withdrawal by denying funding for health, education and ‘other social services,’ said retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright, who, as a State Department official, helped reopen the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2001. “ These funds are now the property of Afghanistan and must go to people providing essential services.

CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin pointed out that freezing funds to sanction the Taliban mostly harms innocent Afghans, including educators and students, as well as medical professionals and patients, people in need and those trained to help them.

“We share the international concern about the Taliban regime and the assessment that their government should not be recognized until it demonstrates its commitment to basic standards such as women’s rights to education and to jobs, “she said,” but withholding funds for teachers and healthcare workers punishes the victims. “

Prominent women lobbying the World Bank to release frozen Afghan funds include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker; Jamila Safi, President of the Association of Afghan Women Teachers; Toorpakai Momand, former director of women’s education in Afghanistan; Sunita Mehta, co-founder of Women for Afghan Women; and Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission.

Additionally, over 3,000 people have expressed their support by signing a petition hosted on the CodePink website.

Unfreeze Afghanistan was formed in response to an urgent appeal from 45,000 members of the Afghanistan Teachers Association, who on October 6 warned that the situation for teachers is dire as most have not received checks from has been paying since June.

“The education ministry has very few resources, and it is difficult to ask our teachers to continue working without pay,” read last week’s statement from the Afghan teachers’ union, according to CodePink. “A lot of them are the sole breadwinners, and they’re really struggling. It will be difficult to keep the schools open if we don’t have the funds.”

Related content

Health workers are also forced to endure inhumane and unsustainable conditions.

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has sounded the alarm that Afghan clinics and hospitals are unable to pay nurses and doctors due to a lack of resources.

Funding cuts, he warned last month, are forcing health providers to decide “who to save and who to let die”.

According to the Asia-Pacific director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Kanni Wignaraja, only 17% of the approximately 2,200 medical facilities funded by the World Bank are “fully functional” and the remaining staff work on a voluntary basis.

If the money is not provided immediately to cover salaries, she told the Washington post last week, “there is a risk that the Afghan people will have virtually no access to primary health services.”

Acknowledging “concern that the money will not reach the targeted workers,” Unfreeze Afghanistan argued that “there are a variety of verifiable mechanisms, like the one UNDP hopes to put in place to pay thousands of workers in the area. health”.

“Payment mechanisms exist”, added the coalition, “which are transparent and traceable, and which allow either direct payment to those authorized to receive them, or payment via NGOs (as already existed in the case of many health establishments), or accountability. for a more centralized payment system. “