Conflict, extreme drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic have converged on the people of Afghanistan, with close to 23 million people in need of humanitarian support. Since the Taliban takeover a year ago, Canadian aid organizations have faced barriers in sending aid to Afghanistan due to Canadian sanctions and a restrictive interpretation of the Canadian Criminal Code’s Anti-Terrorism provisions.
While Canadian allies – including the United States, the UK, the EU, and Australia – have already taken steps to clarify the non-applicability of sanctions and anti-terrorism laws to the provision of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, Canada continues to block humanitarian agencies from providing critical support in Afghanistan free from the fear of facing criminal prosecution.
For the past year, Canadian aid organizations have been pleading with the Government of Canada to remove barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance. With the support of UN Security Council resolutions 2615 and 2626, we ask the Government of Canada to ensure that sanctions and counter-terror finance and criminal law restrictions do not impede the provision of lifesaving humanitarian aid.
The Aid for Afghanistan campaign seeks to garner support from Canadians from coast to coast to demand immediate action in allowing Canadian organizations to help Afghan families in extremely vulnerable situations.
Canada’s Aid for Afghanistan campaign’s hope is to demonstrate the widespread support among Canadians for the provision of aid and to mount additional public pressure on elected officials for the government to finally act in accordance with international law and our allies in supporting Afghan people in desperate need. It also hopes to address a long-standing issue of ensuring that anti-terrorism laws and sanctions do not interfere with humanitarian assistance.
Asuntha Charles, National Director, World Vision Afghanistan
“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is dire. Conflict, climate change and COVID-19 have created a triple blow against the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan, resulting in an unprecedented hunger crisis. Current and Canadian restrictions on humanitarian assistance following the Taliban takeover have compromised our ability to help. For example, we recently had two containers of ready-to-use therapeutic food set to go to Afghanistan – enough for about 1,800 children – but the shipment had to be canceled because of these unnecessary restrictions. It’s time for Canada to take action by decriminalizing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to save lives before it is too late.”
Reyhana Patel, Director of Communications and Government Relations at Islamic Relief Canada:
Our teams on the ground are relaying to us the horrific humanitarian crises unfolding. We’ve met with mothers who had to marry off their daughters so that they can have food. For a country like Canada, it is unacceptable that for almost a year now we haven’t seen action from the government.
Amy Avis, General Counsel, Canadian Red Cross:
“Location should not make a difference when it comes to providing impartial and neutral humanitarian aid to people impacted by a crisis. The situation in Afghanistan is dire, and it is imperative for aid organizations to be allowed to help people in need. The current barriers to aid in Afghanistan by Canada block principle, lifesaving humanitarian aid from reaching people – mostly women and children – who are in desperate need of help. Canada needs to find a way to allow for aid to reach people living in Afghanistan. A year is too long to wait.”
For further information: Media contacts: For further information or to arrange an interview with any of the organizations involved in the campaign, please contact: [email protected]; For further information or to arrange an interview with Canadian Red Cross: English media line: 1-877-599-9602, French media line: 1-888-418-9111