Afghanistan: UN seeks millions in international aid

KABUL: SEPT. 13 – The United Nations is seeking to raise more than $600m (£434m) in aid for Afghanistan, warning the country is facing a major humanitarian crisis.

The organisation will hold a conference in Geneva on Monday where it will call for international support following the Taliban takeover last month.

“Afghans urgently need food, medicine, health services, safe water [and] sanitation,” the UN said.

It added that the $600m targets would bring “vital relief” to millions.

“The country faces an extremely dire situation and is confronted with protracted conflict, severe drought and the Covid-19 pandemic in a context where… almost half of the population were already in need of aid,” a UN statement said.

“Recent developments have increased their vulnerability,” it added. “The economy is grinding to a halt with cash in short supply. Concern for the rights of women and girls is rising.”

“Swift action and support from the international community is vital,” the UN said. It appealed to the Taliban to give aid workers unimpeded access.

Even before the Islamist militants retook control of Afghanistan in August, more than 550,000 people had been forced to flee their homes this year due to fighting.

That means an estimated 3.5 million people are currently internally displaced within the country. Afghans have also had to deal with a severe drought as well as food shortages.

The conference on Monday will be attended by top UN officials as well as aid organisations including the Red Cross and various international governments.

About a third of the money it is seeking to raise would be used by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which earlier said many Afghans did not have access to cash to afford sufficient food.

“It’s now a race against time and the snow to deliver life-saving assistance,” WFP deputy regional director Anthea Webb told Reuters news agency. “We are quite literally begging and borrowing to avoid food stocks running out.”

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted that he had arrived in Kabul on Monday to “assess the country’s acute humanitarian needs and the situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans”.

Thousands of people have fled Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of Kabul on 15 August following a rapid offensive.

On Monday, a special Pakistan International Airlines flight arrived in the capital to take passengers to Islamabad.

In a separate development, Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban co-founder and new deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, issued an apparent audio statement after reports that he had died spread on social media.

“I have been away on trips,” he said in the clip. “Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends.”

The BBC has not been able to verify the recording, which was posted on a number of official Taliban websites.