Rest of Asia

UN chief to host Afghanistan aid meeting in Geneva on Sept 13

AFP/United Nations
Filed on September 4, 2021 | Last updated on September 4, 2021 at 01.48 am
Afghans wait for hours to try to withdraw money, in front of Kabul Bank. — AP

The conference will appeal for unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Geneva to convene a high-level conference on aid for Afghanistan on September 13, his spokesman said on Friday.

The country, now under the control of the Taliban after 20 years of war, is facing a “looming humanitarian catastrophe,” Stephane Dujarric warned.

“The conference will advocate for a swift scale-up in funding so the lifesaving humanitarian operation can continue; and appeal for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need,” he said in a statement.

He said development gains must also be protected in the country and that the rights of women were an “essential” part of Afghanistan’s future stability.

Even before the Taliban victory, Afghanistan was heavily aid-dependent — with 40 per cent of the country’s GDP drawn from foreign funding.

The UN has warned 18 million people are facing a humanitarian disaster, and another 18 million could quickly join them.

“One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. Nearly half of all children under the age of five are predicted to be acutely malnourished in the next 12 months,” Dujarric said.

Residents in Kabul have voiced worry over the country’s long-running economic difficulties, now seriously compounded by the Taliban takeover.

The United States ended its war in Afghanistan on August 30, two weeks after the Afghan government fell and the Taliban took control of Kabul.

Those days were marked by a frenzied evacuation of Americans, other foreigners and Afghans fleeing the new Taliban regime.

Since the US departure, the Taliban have been working with Qatar to get the airport in Kabul, a lifeline for aid, operational again.

On Thursday, the United Nations said it had resumed humanitarian flights to parts of the country, linking the Pakistani capital Islamabad with Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south.

The country’s flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines resumed domestic flights on Friday, while the UAE sent a plane carrying “urgent medical and food aid”.

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