Today: Jun 18, 2024

UN seeks USD 5 billion for stabilising but still suffering Afghanistan

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Geneva:  The United Nations on Tuesday made what it called a record USD 5 billion appeal to help Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries, warning half of the country faces acute hunger, millions of children are out of school and farmers are struggling against drought – even as Afghanistan stabilises from decades of conflict after the Taliban takeover in August.

The appeal from the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs and refugee agency UNHCR reflects the world body’s bid to help beleaguered civilians inside a country now run by a militant group that many Western donor countries once fought – and still oppose.

The US-led international coalition left Afghanistan in chaotic scenes as the Taliban overran the country and swept back to power over the summer.

OCHA warned of looming “catastrophe” in Afghanistan and said 23 million people need humanitarian assistance – or more than half of the country’s population. Up to a million children under age 5 will face severe and acute malnutrition if they don’t get assistance, it said.

“We need to get food to the families where they live. We need to get seeds to the farmers where they plow,” said Martin Griffiths, the head of OCHA.

“We need to get health services to the clinics in locations throughout the country, and we need protection services for all those people who want to return home.”

“This is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance, and it is three times the amount needed and actually fundraised in 2021,” he said.

The joint appeal seeks $4.4 billion for OCHA and its partners, plus another USD 623 million for the refugee agency to help more than 6 million Afghans who have fled abroad, or about 15 percent of Afghanistan’s total population. Others continue to trickle across the border, UNHCR said, while noting that an estimated 175,000 have returned to the country since the Taliban takeover.

“The reality is that people go back because the situation is more secure,” said Filippo Grandi, who heads UNCHR.

“The conflict between the Taliban and the previous government is over. And that has opened up some space of security, which I think we need to take advantage of. But to do that, we need those resources that are part of this appeal.”

Grandi went on to emphasise the effectiveness of aid and said it “allows for creation of a space of dialogue with the Taliban that is invaluable” around issues that matter to many donors – like women’s rights, schooling for girls, and the rights of minorities, which are discussed with the country’s new leaders every day.

“It’s that space that we need to preserve, because at the moment, the political sphere is a little bit behind,” he said.

The UN has repeatedly said that Afghans face one of the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises, with the economy in “free fall” and rights of women and girls “under attack.”

The funding, if achieved, would amount to the equivalent of about one-fourth of the country’s total economic output in 2020, of more than USD 20 billion, according to the World Bank.