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Organizations turn to airlift for Afghanistan

The U.N. health agency and other international organizations began airlifting emergency supplies to Afghanistan through neighboring Pakistan and its airline.

Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield
Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield (AN/Gina Herron)

The United Nations' health agency and other international organizations began airlifting emergency supplies to Afghanistan through neighboring Pakistan and its government-run airline, a senior diplomat said on Monday.

The effort coincided with the U.S. military completing its evacuation from the country, bringing an end to an era.

Later in the day, the U.N. Security Council voted 13-2 to approve a resolution calling on the Taliban to honor its pledges to allow people to make a safe departure and to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

China and Russia, two of the council's permanent veto-wielding members, abstained from the vote. The council's resolution also "reaffirms the importance of upholding human rights including those of women, children and minorities."

Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, said Pakistan International Airlines' first cargo flight carrying the Geneva-based World Health Organization's medical supplies flew from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, to Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, which fell to the Taliban earlier this month, a day before its capital, Kabul, was overrun.

PIA's CEO Arshad Malik confirmed the flight contained "essential medicines and supplies."

'Daily reality for millions of Afghans'

U.N. officials said the shipment of 12.5 metric tons of "lifesaving medical supplies" reached Afghanistan by air and that it was the first U.N. shipment to arrive in the country since the Taliban takeover.

WHO said the delivery of trauma and emergency health kits would go immediately to 40 health facilities, enough to help more than 200,000 people and treat 6,500 trauma patients. It is the first of three such shipments planned to be sent with PIA's help.

The U.S. military brought down rockets aimed at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, which remained the focus of international efforts to evacuate people ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline to complete the United States' withdrawal from its 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Earlier, a U.S. military drone strike blew up a vehicle rigged with explosives and killed 10 civilians, including children.

Filippo Grandi, head of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, appealed to the international community to keep its focus on helping some 3.5 million people displaced by violence within Afghanistan, including more than half a million since the start of this year.

"The airlifts out of Kabul will end in a matter of days, and the tragedy that has unfolded will no longer be as visible," Grandi said. "But it will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans. We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning."