By Nur Choudhury
In a recent piece, Lynne O’Donnell alleged that “unknown quantities [of aid] are stolen by the Taliban”. The allegations are entirely based on anonymous sources, including “a former Afghan intelligence and military officer”. From the onset, lending unquestioned credibility to a source belonging to agencies previously involved in rampant corruption and torture, and a political enemy of the current government, is baffling.
The piece itself recognises that “billions of dollars were stolen by officials and their cronies”, under the US-backed regime. Similarly, the World Food Bank found that, during the occupation, high inflows of aid incentivised waste and corruption, impeding the building of a more effective Afghan state.
There is a broad consensus that corruption has dramatically decreased since the US withdrawal, If anything, guarantees that aid will reach the recipients are at an all-time high in Afghanistan.
As an independent NGO working on the ground, day in and day out, in Afghanistan, Human Aid & Advocacy has substantial experience delivering lifesaving programmes across the country, whether by way of distributing food; warm clothing; providing shelter; or through empowerment programmes: we have been free to work, following the regulations in place, as in any other country.
As part of our work, we deployed our local team to carry out first-hand research in order to understand the causes and solutions for Afghanistan’s current situation.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with 20 local expert stakeholders, with current knowledge in the fields of agriculture, business, education, engineering and health in Afghanistan, in tandem with external research, we produced our soon to be published report: "Afghanistan Forward: Views from the Ground”.
One interviewee commented on the provision of aid and corruption under the US-backed regime: “Most of the aid was given to the neighbourhoods' representatives and seniors ... Approximately 80% of the aid did not reach the people that needed it”. Another interviewee remarked, when asked about corruption within the new authorities, “People are hopeful since the previous government had a lot of corruption, and this is not found in the current one.”
Members of our team in Afghanistan deliver the aid, physically ensuring it reaches those most in need. Suggesting otherwise is not only a great insult to the selfless and hardworking humanitarians on the ground, but foremost, a direct threat to the wellbeing and future of the Afghan people.
It has been estimated that 49.4% of the population of Afghanistan is living below the poverty line. Baseless allegations, like that sported by O’Donnell build a narrative that can undermine donors’ confidence and ultimately prevent the saving of lives.
The people of Afghanistan aspire towards a self-sufficient nation, rather than one that is aid-reliant. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is largely man-made: it is the result of war, corruption, and sanctions. It is also the result of false narratives pushed out, for the past decades. Journalists and publications have a duty to report truthfully and responsibly. It is not just lines, but lives at stake.
Notes for editors:
1. Human Aid & Advocacy is an international NGO supporting survivors of war and persecution through access to sustainable aid programmes while addressing the real causes of conflict.
2. Inquiries to [email protected]