UN seeks more than $600 mn for Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

UN seeks more than $600 mn for Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

United Nations/Geneva: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced a USD 20 million allocation to support humanitarian operation in Afghanistan, saying the "de facto" authorities in the war-torn country have "pledged" to cooperate to ensure assistance is delivered to the people.

"The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline. 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," Guterres said at a humanitarian conference on Afghanistan convened in Geneva.

At the global conference, Guterres announced a USD 20 million allocation from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund to support the humanitarian operation in Afghanistan.

Cautioning that "time is short and events move quickly in Afghanistan," Guterres appealed to the international community to extend that "lifeline to the people of Afghanistan - and do everything we can - and everything we owe - to help them hold on to hope."

The United Nations convened the High-Level Ministerial event on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan to highlight the acute needs in the country and underscore the urgent funding support and actions required by international partners to support the people of Afghanistan.

As Afghans urgently need food, medicine, health services, safe water, sanitation, and protection, UN agencies and non-governmental partners have launched a flash appeal seeking USD 606 million for the remainder of the year to bring vital relief to 11 million people.

He told the conference that he had asked UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths to travel to Kabul last week to meet the leadership of the Taliban.

Griffiths had met with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the militant outfit's leadership in Kabul to engage with the authorities on humanitarian issues.

"The de facto authorities pledged to cooperate to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan. Our staff and all aid workers must be allowed to do their vital work in safety without harassment, intimidation or fear," Guterres said.

Last week, the Taliban announced a hardline interim government led by Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, chief of the Taliban's powerful decision-making body 'Rehbari Shura'. He will be the Acting Prime Minister while Baradar will be his deputy in the "new Islamic government .

At least 14 members of the Cabinet, including acting Prime Minister Mullah Akhund, are listed on the UN Security Council's terrorism blacklist.

The UN chief said that in order to continue the life-saving efforts in Afghanistan, four things are required right away - funding; help to boost humanitarian access; need to safeguard the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and need to ensure that the humanitarian response saves lives but also saves livelihoods.

On funding, Guterres said, we need more. We need it quickly. And we need it to be flexible enough to adapt to the fast- changing conditions on the ground."

He urged for help from the international community to boost humanitarian access, including the airbridge with Kabul and other hubs in Afghanistan. "The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service established an airbridge from Islamabad into Kandahar, Mazar and Herat, with operations running since the end of August. This work must continue. Much more is needed."

He added that "we need to be able to move aid workers and humanitarian supplies in and out of the country."

Meanwhile, China on Monday asked the US and the international community to take "active actions" to help ease the economic crisis in Afghanistan by providing aid to the war-torn country even as it called on the Taliban to stay true to its commitment not to allow terrorist groups to operate from the Afghan soil.

"The Afghan Taliban should stay true to its commitment and earnestly make a clean break with all terrorist forces and take effective measures to crack down on them to avoid the spillover effects, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing on Monday.

"Terrorism remains a common threat for the international community. China stands ready to work with other countries to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed and safe haven for terrorism and jointly safeguard the regional peace and stability, he said.

Asked for his reaction to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appeal for aid to Afghanistan to prevent economic meltdown of the country, which would be a gift for terrorists, Zhao said China has committed to provide 200 million Yuan (about USD 31 million) aid comprising food, winter clothing and medicines to the war-torn country.

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