Donors pledge $1.2B in funds for Afghans
Millions lack food, health care and protection
GENEVA—The United Nations drummed up more than $1.2 billion (U.S.) in emergency pledges Monday for helping 11 million Afghans facing an escalating humanitarian crisis in their homeland and millions more elsewhere in the region as the UN human rights chief voiced concerns about the Taliban’s first steps in establishing power in the beleaguered and impoverished country.
At the first high-level conference on Afghanistan since the Taliban took power a month ago, western governments, big traditional donors and others announced pledges that went beyond the $606 million that the United Nations was seeking to cover costs through the end of the year for protecting Afghans from looming humanitarian disaster.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths announced at the close of the ministerial meeting that more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian and development aid had been pledged. He said this included the $606 million sought in a “flash appeal” but also a regional response to the Afghan crisis that UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi spoke about after arriving in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit.
He wrote on Twitter that he would assess humanitarian needs and the situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans, including over 500,000 displaced this year alone.
Officials at the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, have expressed concerns that more Afghans could take refuge into neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, which both already have large numbers of Afghans who fled their country during the past decades of war.
Griffiths urged donors to turn Monday’s pledges into cash contributions as fast as possible, saying “the funding will throw a lifeline to Afghans” who lack food, health care and protection. He said the meeting showed solidarity with the Afghan people but added that “Afghanistan faces a long and hard road ahead” and this “is far from the end of the journey.”
It is feared Afghanistan could further plunge toward famine and economic collapse after the chaos of the past month, which saw the Taliban oust the government in a lightning sweep as U.S. and NATO forces exited the 20-year war.
“The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them. And let us be clear, this conference is not simply about what we will give to the people of Afghanistan. It is about what we owe.”
He said one in three Afghans don’t know where their next meal will come from, the poverty rate is “spiralling” and basic public services are nearing collapse. A severe drought is jeopardizing the upcoming harvest, and hunger has been rising. The UN’s World Food Program says Afghans are growing increasingly short of cash to buy food, the majority of which — like wheat flour — is imported.