UN seeks $600 million to avert Afghanistan humanitarian crisis

People cross Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Friendship Gate in Chaman
People crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at the Friendship Gate in Chaman
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan family walks beside a fence to cross into Pakistan at the Friendship Gate crossing point in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan September 6, 2021. Reuters / Abdul Khaliq Achakzai

September 13, 2021

by Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations is convening an aid conference in Geneva on Monday in an effort to raise more than $600 million for Afghanistan, warning of a humanitarian crisis there following the Taliban takeover.

Even before the Taliban captured Kabul last month, half the population – or 18 million people – depended on aid. UN officials and aid groups have warned that the figure is set to rise due to drought and shortages of cash and food.

The collapse of Afghanistan’s Western-backed government and the abrupt cessation of billions of dollars in foreign donations following the ensuing victory of the Taliban has put more pressure on UN programs.

Yet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says his organization is struggling financially: “At the present time the United Nations is not able to pay its employees their salaries,” he told reporters on Friday.

The Geneva conference, starting Monday afternoon, will be attended by top UN officials, including Guterres, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, as well as dozens of government representatives, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

About a third of the $606 million being sought will be used by the United Nations World Food Program, which found that 93% of 1,600 Afghans surveyed in August and September were not eating enough foods, mostly because They did not have access to cash to pay. For this.

“It is now a race against time and ice to provide life-saving aid to the Afghan people who need it most,” said Anthea Webb, WFP’s deputy regional director. “We’re literally begging and borrowing to survive the food store.”

The World Health Organization, another UN agency that is part of the appeal, is seeking to shore up hundreds of health facilities at risk of closure after backing donors.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Pravin Char)

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