Taliban rule challenges aid groups after quake

STORY: The Taliban's deputy head has appealed for urgent aid, as he visited the zone of an earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people this week.

But how to help Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in August is a challenge for international banks, which are wary of testing U.N. and U.S. sanctions, and for aid organizations trying to run operations on a shoe-string.

Poor communication and basic roads have further hampered efforts. And an aftershock killed at least five people on Friday (June 24).

This was Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Taliban's interior minister, as he toured the quake-hit Paktika province, near the border of Pakistan:

"We request all the aid agencies, other countries to send us urgent aid and to help us, since many houses have been destroyed and many people are affected. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will transparently distribute all aid to needy people by land or air. We again call for urgent help."

But United Nations' aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Thursday (June 23) the Taliban are resisting efforts to get humanitarian funding into Afghanistan and interfering in the delivery of aid.

The U.N. wants to kickstart a system called a Humanitarian Exchange Facility to swap millions of aid dollars for Afghan currency.

The aim is to bypass Taliban leaders who are under sanctions amid concerns about human rights.

"We have seen limited progress because of resistance, I have to say, by the de-facto authorities. This is an issue that is not going to fix itself. [EDIT] National and local authorities are, I'm sorry to say, increasingly seeking to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries and channeling assistance to people on their own priority lists, citing an almost universal level of need, exactly contrary to the promises made, as you may remember, Mr. President, to me and my colleagues last September. We are also seeing more demands by them, by the Taliban, for data and information with regards to budget and staffing contracts. This is an old, vexed issue that has plagued our relationship with the Taliban for decades."

Griffiths said the formal banking system continued to block transfers and that two-thirds of aid groups said a lack of available cash was hampering their efforts.

The Humanitarian Exchange Facility must be up and running as soon as possible, he said.

The Taliban could not be immediately reached for comment on Griffith's remarks.

Some aid has been getting through from Pakistan. China, Japan and South Korea are among others planning to send assistance.

Mohammad Nassim Haqqani, an Afghan disaster ministry spokesperson, said on Friday the country did not have medical supplies to treat at least 2,000 wounded.

He said the search for survivors had been called off some 48 hours after disaster struck.

People have been pulled alive from the rubble of other earthquakes after considerably more time.

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