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Donors pledge $ 1 billion in aid to Afghanistan as UN warns of crisis | Asia News

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Donors have pledged more than $ 1 billion to help Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger have spread since the Taliban came to power, and foreign aid has dried up, raising the specter of a mass exodus.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking at a donors’ conference in Geneva on Monday, said it was impossible to say how much money had been pledged in response to an urgent UN call for $ 606 million for him. meet the most pressing needs of the country Me

After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, Afghans are facing perhaps their most dangerous hour, Guterres said in his opening remarks at the conference, adding that the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline.

The financial system is currently extremely limited, which means that a number of basic economic functions cannot be performed, Guterres said.

Al Jazeera Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from Geneva, said that while the UN chief was very pleased with the international community’s response, he said the prospect of an economic collapse was a serious possibility.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Martin Griffiths speak before the aid conference [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Millions on the brink of starvation

He said food could run out by the end of this month and the World Food Program said 14 million people were on the brink of starvation.

The Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan between 1996-2001, barred women from working and teenage girls from school, and overthrew a US-led invasion that accused them of harboring al-Qaeda members following the 9/11 attacks. .

The Taliban returned to power last month in a lightning advance as the last US-led NATO troops withdrew and Western-backed government forces disbanded.

With billions of dollars in aid suddenly ending due to Western antipathy and distrust of the Taliban, donors had a moral obligation to continue helping Afghans after a 20-year engagement, several speakers in Geneva said.

Guterres said it was impossible to provide humanitarian aid inside Afghanistan without engaging with the Taliban.

It was very important to engage with the Taliban at this time, Guterres told reporters on the outskirts of the conference.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Geneva, UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths said the UN wanted to make sure the money went directly to those humanitarian on the ground who are providing services to the Afghan people, calling the situation very serious.

Workers wait on the streets to get hired, in Kabul [Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

Neighbors China and Pakistan have already offered assistance.

Beijing last week promised $ 31 million in food and health supplies, and on Friday said it would send a first batch of three million coronavirus vaccines.

Pakistan sent supplies such as cooking oil and medicine to authorities in Kabul and called for a merger of Afghanistan’s assets.

The mistakes of the past should not be repeated. The Afghan people should not be abandoned, said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, whose country is likely to bear the brunt of any refugee exodus.

Sustained engagement with Afghanistan in meeting its humanitarian needs is essential.

Both China and Russia said the main burden of helping Afghanistan out of the crisis should be on Western countries.

The US and its allies have a greater obligation to provide economic, humanitarian and livelihood assistance, said Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

The US promises $ 64 million

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the conference that Washington was providing nearly $ 64 million in new humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

Let us commit today to meet this urgent call for financial support, to commit to staying close to humanitarian workers as they perform their important work, and to increase humanitarian action in Afghanistan so that we can save the lives of Afghans in need. she said.

France, meanwhile, said it would contribute 100m euros ($ 118m) to the UN urgent appeal.

Half of the (Afghan) population is now at risk, including more than four million women and about 10 million children. Responsibility is our responsibility to be with them in this new test, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a high-level ministerial meeting in Geneva on Monday.

Even before the Taliban captured Kabul last month, about half the population, or 18 million people, were dependent on aid. That figure is likely to rise due to drought and lack of money and food, UN officials and aid groups have warned.

Afghans wait in front of a bank as they try to withdraw money in Kabul [Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

About a third of the $ 606 million requested would be used by the UN World Food Program, which found that 93 percent of the 1,600 Afghans surveyed in August and September were not consuming enough food, largely because they did not could have access to pay money for it.

It is now a race with time and snow to deliver rescue aid to the most needy Afghan people, said WFP Deputy Regional Director Anthea Webb.

We are literally begging and borrowing to avoid running out of food stocks.

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

Al Jazeera Charles Stratford, reporting from Kabul, said the situation in the health clinics in the country was completely shocking.

We visited a few days ago a rural clinic outside Kabul that had a number of women waiting to give birth every day. They did not even have rubber gloves. There were no antibiotics or antiseptics, he said.

There were people who came with colds and sore throats and nurses and doctors could not give them even simple sedatives.

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