Afghanistan donated $1 million in financial aid for Palestinian refugees at an event in Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial capital, on Sunday.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Turkey Abdul Rahim Sayed presented the aid to Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), at a ceremony also featuring Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Cavusoglu praised the Afghan government and people for their help for the Palestinian people, coming in the wake of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states to support the Palestinians.
More than a decade and a half after a US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has been battling abject poverty. A joint study by the European Union and Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Organisation in May 2018 showed that Afghanistan’s povery rate was at 55% in the year 2016-17 – that’s more than half of it’s population living on less than one dollar per day.
“The Afghan people have greater need than the Palestinians of the $1 million due to the conditions in which they live – terror and other challenges in particular,” said Cavusoglu, adding:
But they sent this money here, forgetting their own hardship in order to make our Palestinian refugee brothers and sisters continue their education and not to be left hungry and homeless.
He further added: “This contribution and aid that the Afghan people gave will never be forgotten. The Palestinians will never forget the aid and support they were given.”
Afghanistan’s ambassador, for his part, called Afghanistan’s stance for the cause of Palestine “strong.”
“We Afghans face many economic problems and we’re struggling and fighting for a better future for our people. We’re aware of the difficulties that people of Palestine are facing,” said Sayed.
“They need support and we should take steadfast measures to provide them with basic humanitarian aid and support.”
He said the Afghan government considers Erdogan’s call on OIC member states to support the people of Palestine a “positive step.”
Afghanistan also welcomed the OIC initiative for the establishment of a “Waqf Fund” to support Palestinian refugees.
In his speech, the ambassador called on OIC member states as well as other countries to support the people of Palestine “in such a pressing time that they need help and support.”
For his part, Krahenbuhl thanked Afghanistan for its “immense gesture” at a time that Afghanistan “faces so many challenges and has gone through so much pain, suffering and despair.”
“It is something that will be written in golden letters in the history of UNWRA, as an organization. It means so much to us, as a message to the entire world,” he said.
“This is something that we will carry as a message around the world to inspire others to stand firmly with Palestinian refugees, at a time when Palestinian refugees have often felt that they were forgotten by the world.”
According to a UNRWA statement issued in January, the funding is needed to continue providing assistance to some 5.4 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East and maintaining the agency’s operations at 2018 levels.
Krahenbuhl said in January that a further $138 million would be required to provide emergency aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), while an additional $277 million would be needed to support the agency’s Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal.
Last year, US President Donald Trump cut Washington’s annual funding for the UNRWA. The US had been the agency’s largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million each year – roughly a quarter of its overall budget.
The UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 with the stated aim of providing aid and protection to Palestinian refugees in its five areas of operations: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.