ATLANTA: Pledges and donations from countries around the world are on track to surpass the UN appeal to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
At a conference held on Monday in Geneva and attended by Arab News, the UN called on the international community to donate $606 million in a “flash appeal” to help Afghans with urgent economic and financial assistance to offset the dire humanitarian situation in the country, in the aftermath of the Taliban taking control last month.
the UN asked the international community to donate generously to help around 18 million people in Afghanistan, and Afghan refugees in neighboring countries, to find food, shelter and medicine.
Representatives of European countries, Japan, Australia and the US pledged several hundred million dollars in immediate cash donations.
Other countries in the Middle East pledged to help the UN facilitate its work in Afghanistan and donate humanitarian supplies, medicine and foodstuffs. Qatar and the UAE pledged $50 million each in addition to other humanitarian donations.
Pakistan’s foreign minister emphasized his country’s readiness to provide logistics and aid to the UN mission, while referring to Pakistan’s historic role in sheltering 3 million Afghan refugees still in the country today.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the event with an appeal to step up efforts to help the poor, girls and women, who represent the most vulnerable segments of Afghan society.
He also called on the Taliban to ensure aid is delivered to those who need it, and to safeguard the UN’s humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.
Guterres said Afghanistan was facing one of its worst crises even before the Taliban took over due to poverty. He urged the Taliban government to cooperate with the UN in the country and ensure the safety of staff and aid workers.
“Even before the dramatic events of the last weeks, Afghans were experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world,” he said.
“Today, one in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. The poverty rate is spiraling — and basic public services are close to collapse.”
He added “many people could run out of food by the end of this month, just as winter approaches,” and said the UN has allocated $20 million from its Emergency Response Fund to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pledged $100 million in aid.
Maas added the “Taliban will be judged by deeds not words,” and that “Afghanistan must not become a base for terrorism.”
UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said his country was doubling its aid to Afghanistan, and that the Taliban must honor commitments to diversity.
US representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the audience during the conference that “words are not good enough, and we must see actions.”
Thomas-Greenfield said her country was donating another $64 million in the flash aid appeal on top of $300 million the US has pledged in the current fiscal year.
Martin Griffiths, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and its emergency relief coordinator, urged the international community to come forward to help the Afghan people, adding the UN was committed to protecting women rights and the rights of minorities, as well as freedom of expression in Afghanistan.
Griffiths said he held direct talks with the Taliban last week in which he obtained a signed agreement from them to help the UN carry out its mission in Afghanistan.