India donates 500,000 Covid vaccine doses to Afghanistan
New Delhi: India on Saturday donated 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the Indira Gandhi children’s hospital in Kabul, and pledged to send another 500,000 jabs in the coming weeks as part of humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan.
The vaccines were sent to Kabul via a flight of Iran’s Mahan Air, as there are currently no direct flights between India and Afghanistan. India had earlier sent 1.6 tonnes of life-saving medicines to the same hospital, drawing praise from the Taliban.
“Today, India supplied the next batch of humanitarian assistance consisting of 500,000 doses of COVID vaccine (Covaxin) to Afghanistan. The same was handed over to the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement. “Another batch of additional 500,000 doses would be supplied in (the) coming weeks.”
On December 11, the Indian government sent 1.6 tonnes of medicines to the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul on a special charter flight that also ferried 85 Afghan nationals who were stuck in India after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The same flight had brought 104 people, mostly Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, from Kabul to New Delhi a day earlier.
The medicines were routed through the World Health Organization.
India’s offer to provide 50,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistani land routes, however, has been held up because of conditions attached by Pakistan. On December 3, Pakistan said it would allow wheat and medicines to be shipped via the Wagah land border crossing in Afghan trucks, but it is yet to finalise modalities.
India is committed to provide humanitarian aid to Afghan people consisting of food grains, one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and essential life-saving drugs, the external affairs ministry said.
India will undertake the supply of wheat and the remaining medical assistance in the coming weeks, the ministry said. “In this regard, we are in touch with UN agencies and others for finalising the modalities for transportation,” it added.
An estimated 98% of Afghans are starving because of a spiralling economic crisis, conflict and drought, and this figure has increased 17% since August, according to the World Food Programme.
“Afghanistan is facing an avalanche of hunger and destitution the likes of which I have never seen in my 20 plus years with the World Food Programme,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the agency’s country director for Afghanistan. “We urgently need $220 million a month in 2022 to assist 23 million Afghans.”