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Shaheen Helps Urge Administration to Lift Red Tape on Humanitarian Aid for Education in Afghanistan

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to amend the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) general license on humanitarian assistance to authorize education programming activities in Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary Blinken and Secretary Yellen, the lawmakers emphasized the importance of accessing and maintaining an education for school-aged children in Afghanistan. America and its allies made clear that access to education must be a humanitarian priority in the wake of the Taliban gaining control of Afghanistan earlier this year, yet the Biden administration’s commitment to providing educational humanitarian assistance and support for young Afghans is under threat without legal safeguards in place to exempt education programming from sanctions aimed at the Taliban.

“Education is a basic need and right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights alongside those to food, housing, and medical care, and is a lifesaving intervention,” wrote the lawmakers. “It is a crucial component of every global humanitarian response and often one of the first services that communities demand.”

“Education provides a safe place for children to learn and play in otherwise violent contexts, and increases their access to critical services that support health and psychosocial needs,” they continued. “Children enrolled in educational programs have increased access to vaccinations, medications, mental health support, and nutrition through feeding programs. Participating in education can also help prevent the likelihood that a child will be engaged in child labor or recruited into armed groups, and can prevent early marriage and pregnancy. In this way, access to education from the onset of a crisis supports children’s wellbeing in the short term and contributes to longer-term recovery goals.”

The full letter can be viewed here.

Shaheen long expressed deep concerns about the United States’ unconditioned withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly out of concern for the repercussions facing Afghan women and other groups vulnerable to the Taliban’s violence and oppression. Shaheen’s bipartisan resolution with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) condemning the terror attack on a girls’ school in Kabul over the summer and in support of international efforts to ensure the safety of Afghan girls cleared the Senate earlier this year. She also leads bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to address the unique barriers young girls in developing countries face in accessing a full education. The Keeping Girls in School Act would direct the U.S. government to leverage its resources and partnerships with private institutions, NGOs and federal agencies to create solutions that address the obstacles facing adolescent girls.