The plight of the Afghan people fell starkly on Monday when top United Nations officials warned that millions of people could run out of food before winter sets in and a million children could die if their immediate needs were not met.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres, speaking at a high-level United Nations conference in Geneva held to address the crisis, said that since Taliban control of AfghanistanThe country’s poverty rate is rising, basic public services are on the verge of collapse, and last year hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless after they were forced to flee the fighting.
“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they are facing perhaps their most dangerous time,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that one in three Afghans does not know where they will get their next meal.
Speaking to news media on Monday afternoon, Mr. Guterres said the international community pledged more than $1 billion in aid during the meeting. Linda Thomas Greenfield, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, has promised $64 million in new funding for food and medical aid.
With the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe long looming over the nation as the sword of Damocles, it now poses a direct threat to the nation’s children.
“Nearly 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian assistance just to survive,” said Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, at the conference. “At least one million children will suffer from acute malnutrition this year and could die without treatment.”
Even before the Taliban swept across the country and took control of the government, Afghanistan was facing an acute food crisis as drought swept the country.
The World Food Program estimates that 40 percent of crops are lost. The price of wheat is up 25 percent, and the aid agency is expected to run out of food stocks by the end of September.
The suffering caused by conflict and exacerbated by climate change has been exacerbated by the uncertainty that accompanied the rise of the Taliban, with Many international aid workers have fled the country of safety concerns. Those who remained were unsure whether they would be able to continue their work.
During the conference, the United Nations said it needed $606 million in emergency funding to tackle the immediate crisis, while acknowledging that money alone would not be enough. The organization pressured the Taliban to provide assurances that aid workers could operate safely. By the end of the meeting, international pledges had exceeded the required amount.
But even as the Taliban sought to honor that pledge, UN human rights coordinator Michelle Bachelet, who also spoke in Geneva, said Afghanistan was in a “new and precarious phase” since the Islamist militant group seized power.
She told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, warning that the Taliban need to use more words to demonstrate their commitment to the safety of aid workers.
Monday’s conference was also intended to reinvigorate the enormity of the crisis and provide some reassurance to Western governments reluctant to provide assistance that could legitimize the authority of the Taliban government, which includes leaders identified by the United Nations as international terrorists with links to al-Qaeda.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s director of humanitarian and emergency relief operations, visited Kabul last week and said the Taliban authorities had promised to facilitate the delivery of aid.
“We assure you that we will remove past and present obstacles to your assistance and all related projects operating under the auspices of the United Nations and other international organizations in Afghanistan,” the Taliban said in oral and written commitments subsequently read out by Mr. Griffiths to the conference. The Taliban also promised to protect the lives and property of humanitarian workers and their compounds. He added that the Taliban authorities on Sunday sent assurances that they would facilitate the arrival of humanitarian aid by land.
Despite the risks, UN aid organizations still operate in the country and may be one of the last international lifelines for hundreds of thousands of people in need.
“In the past two weeks, we have provided 170,000 drought-affected people with safe drinking water and deployed mobile health teams in 14 districts to continue providing essential health services to children and women,” said Ms. Fore. “During the last week of August, UNICEF provided 4,000 severely malnourished children under the age of five with life-saving curative treatment, and ground expeditions began.”
Since coming to power, the Taliban have been largely isolated – politically and economically – from the rest of the world.
The World Bank has halted funding for new projects, the International Monetary Fund has suspended payments to Afghanistan and the Biden administration has frozen Central Bank of Afghanistan assets located in the United States.
While China has made friendly gestures to the Taliban and offered assistance of about $30 million, this is a fraction of the assistance the country was to receive before the Taliban took control.
At a meeting in November 2020, donor countries committed About $12 billion in aid to Afghanistan over four years.
The Taliban did not have a representative in Geneva to attend the meeting.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s deputy minister of information and culture, said the government welcomes all humanitarian efforts by any country, including the United States.
He also admitted that even the Taliban did not expect to take over the country so quickly.
“It was a surprise to us how the previous administration abandoned the government,” he said. “We weren’t quite ready for that and we’re still trying to figure out things to manage the crisis and try to help people in any way we can.”
Most banks in the country remain closed, and Mr. Mujahid said there are no immediate plans to reopen, citing the risk of people breaking into them.
He called on the United States to unfreeze Afghanistan’s funds.
For the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting, their needs are immediate and are getting more acute by the day.
More than half a million Afghans have been driven from their homes by fighting and insecurity this year, bringing the total number of people displaced within the country to 3.5 million, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
The threat of economic collapse raised the possibility of fueling the flow of refugees to neighboring countries.
Saeed, 33, lived in Kunduz before fleeing to Kabul, where he now lives in a tent inside a park.
He was there with his wife and three children a month ago.
“It’s cold here,” he said, “we have no food, no shelter, and we can’t find work in this city.” “We all have children and they need food and shelter, and it’s not easy to live here.”