The United Nations has urged the world to raise $ 606 million for Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger have increased since the Taliban ruled and billions in foreign aid have dried up amid Western mistrust of the new rulers.
After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, the Afghans are facing “perhaps their most dangerous hour”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday in his opening remarks at a conference in Geneva seeking help in Afghanistan. adding that “the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline.
“Let us be clear: this conference is not just about what we will give to the people of Afghanistan. It’s about what we owe. ”
He said food supplies could run out by the end of the month.
The Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, barring women from work and teenage girls from school, and were overthrown during a U.S.-led invasion, accusing them of al-Qaeda. members sheltered behind the 9/11 attacks.
The Taliban came to power again quickly last month when the last NATO-led troops withdrew and the Western-backed government forces melted away.
As aid suddenly comes to an end, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said international donors have a ‘moral obligation’ to help Afghans after their 20-year commitment.
Neighbors China and Pakistan have already offered aid.
Beijing announced last week that it would send $ 31 million in food and health supplies to Afghanistan. Pakistan sent supplies such as cooking oil and medicine to the authorities in Kabul and demanded that the assets of Afghanistan be thawed.
“Mistakes from the past must not be repeated. The Afghan people should not be let down, “said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, whose country is likely to bear the brunt of any exodus of refugees.
“Continued commitment to Afghanistan to meet its humanitarian needs is essential.”
Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays, who reported from Geneva, said some countries were “reluctant” to give money at this stage.
“They do not want the money to go into the hands of the Taliban,” he added.
In an interview with Al Jazeera in Geneva, UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths said the agency wanted to make sure the money went directly to the humanitarian people on the ground providing services to the Afghan people, and mentioned the situation ‘very bad’.
US pledges $ 64 million
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the conference that Washington was offering nearly $ 64 million in new humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
“Let us commit ourselves today to fulfilling this urgent call for financial support, to committing ourselves to humanitarian workers while doing their most important work and to strengthening humanitarian action in Afghanistan so that we can make the lives of those in need Afghans can save, “she said.
Even before the Taliban’s conquest of Kabul last month, half the population – or 18 million people – were dependent on aid. The figure is likely to increase due to drought and a shortage of cash and food, UN officials and aid groups have warned.
About a third of the $ 606 million spent will be used by the UN’s World Food Program, which found that 93 per cent of the 1,600 Afghans he surveyed in August and September did not eat enough food, mostly because they could not access cash paid for it.
“It is now a race against time and snow to provide life-saving assistance to the Afghan people who need it most,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director Anthea Webb.
“We literally beg and lend to prevent food supplies from running out.”
The World Health Organization, another UN agency involved in the appeal, wants to crack down on hundreds of healthcare facilities that run the risk of closing after donors withdrew.
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reported from Kabul, said the situation at health clinics in the country was ‘absolutely shocking’.
‘We visited a rural clinic just outside Kabul a few days ago, with a number of women expecting to give birth. They did not even have rubber gloves. “There were no antibiotics, no antiseptics,” he said.
“There were people who came in with colds and sore throats, and the nurses and doctors could not even give them simple painkillers.”