India sends 2 tonnes of medicines for Kabul hospital
India on Friday supplied two tonnes of life-saving medicines to Afghanistan, the third tranche of aid sent to the country since last month against the backdrop of a dire humanitarian situation exacerbated by a harsh winter.
The medicines were routed through Dubai as there are currently no direct flights between India and Afghanistan, people familiar with the matter said. The aid was handed over to the World Health Organization (WHO) and will be used at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul.
The Taliban welcomed the assistance, with spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid saying in a tweet that the “Islamic Emirate is grateful to India for its humanitarian assistance and cooperation”.
“As part of our ongoing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, India supplied the third batch of medical assistance consisting of two tons of essential life saving medicines to Afghanistan today. The same was handed over to the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul,” the external affairs ministry said in a brief statement.
India is committed to “continue our special relationship with the people of Afghanistan and provide them humanitarian assistance”, the ministry said noting that the country has supplied 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and 1.6 tonnes of medical assistance to Afghanistan through WHO.
“In [the] coming weeks, we would be supplying more batches of humanitarian assistance consisting of medicines and foodgrains to Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The English language Twitter handle of the Taliban said the medicines arrived in Kabul on Friday morning. “A few days ago, India also sent 500,000 doses of corona vaccine along with many other items to Afghanistan. IEA is grateful to India,” it said in a tweet.
While supplying the Covid-19 vaccines on January 1, India pledged to send another 500,000 jabs in the coming weeks. The vaccines were sent to Kabul via a flight of Iran’s Mahan Air.
On December 11, the government sent 1.6 tonnes of medicines on a special charter flight that 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.
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 Islamabad. 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 firm up modalities.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a media briefing on Thursday that the Indian side is still engaged in talks with Pakistani authorities to finalise these modalities.
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. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned this week that a harsh winter is aggravating already severe conditions faced by millions of Afghans.