UN chief warns of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Afghanistan

Antonio Guterres says almost half of the Afghan population needs urgent aid to survive after the Taliban takeover.

Internally displaced families from northern provinces, who fled from their homes due the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, take shelter in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: Reuters]

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan as he urged countries to provide emergency funding following the final departure of United States forces and the full Taliban takeover.

Guterres on Tuesday expressed his “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country”, adding that basic services threatened to collapse “completely”.

“Now more than ever, Afghan children, women and men need the support and solidarity of the international community,” he said in a statement as he pleaded for financial support from nations.

“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need. I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding,” the UN secretary-general said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the current $1.3bn UN humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan is only 39 percent funded.

Guterres announced that the UN would release details of a flash appeal for Afghanistan next week.

The information will detail the “most immediate humanitarian needs and funding requirements” needed over the next four months, he said.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths will coordinate “the entire UN system” in preparation for the appeal, Guterres added.

He said almost half of the population of Afghanistan – 18 million people – need urgent humanitarian assistance to survive.

“One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year.”

“People are losing access to basic goods and services every day. A humanitarian catastrophe looms,” said Guterres.

He added that severe drought and coming harsh winter conditions meant extra food, shelter and health supplies “must be urgently fast-tracked” to Afghanistan.

“I call on all parties to facilitate safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for life-saving and life-sustaining supplies, as well as for all humanitarian workers – men and women,” he said.

Guterres said the commitment of humanitarian agencies to stay in Afghanistan and deliver aid “will not waver”.

The international body evacuated hundreds of its humanitarian personnel from Afghanistan ahead of the US withdrawal from the country, which was completed on Tuesday. The staffers have been temporarily relocated to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, to carry out their duties remotely.

Guterres has emphasised the importance of ensuring Kabul’s international airport remains open following the US exit to facilitate large-scale aid deliveries.

Source: News Agencies