The UN secretary-general on Monday called on the international community to provide $606 million in humanitarian aid for approximately 11 million people in Afghanistan in the last four months of 2021.
“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,” said Antonio Guterres, speaking in Geneva at a high-level ministerial meeting on Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation.
“Let us be clear. This conference is not simply about what we will give to the people of Afghanistan. It is about what we owe.”
Guterres said many people could run out of food by the end of this month, with winter approaching, making a UN flash appeal.
He said that the UN Humanitarian Air Service had established an airbridge from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad into the Afghan cities of Kandahar, Mazar, and Herat, with operations running since the end of August, and “this work must continue.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said by video link that one-third of the Afghan people face hunger and nearly half of the population is in need of urgent humanitarian aid, adding that Turkey supports the call by Guterres.
“The signs of an impending economic crisis are everywhere and flashing red,” said Cavusoglu.
“Since the 1920s, Turkey has contributed to the stabilization and development efforts in Afghanistan, including the education of girls and empowerment of women.”
He said one vital component for any relief effort in Afghanistan is the functioning of the airport in the capital Kabul.
Keeping airport operational
“As we have done for the last six years, we are ready to offer our experience and expertise in cooperation with Qatar to keep the airport operational,” said Cavusoglu.
Turkey has previously said it would need security and financial assistance guarantees to run the facility.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN in New York, said via video link that funding alone is not enough to support the Afghan people and the efforts of NGO partners.
She said there are reports of the Taliban obstructing and interfering with the protection of people, putting prohibitions on female staff, and engaging in retribution against people that is “frightening and unacceptable.”
“We need safe passage. We need access by the air and on the ground. We need cooperation from neighboring countries to ensure the work remains open to commercial traveling,” said Thomas-Greenfield, adding that the US will provide $64 million in humanitarian assistance.
“This additional funding means the United States has provided nearly $330 billion in assistance to Afghans in this fiscal year,” she said.
Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the conference that he had just returned from Afghanistan.
“Primary healthcare is on the brink of collapse, water services failing, and food prices exorbitant,” he said.
“Afghans welcome the end to fighting, yet they are deeply concerned for the future of diversity in a fragmented society – women and minority groups first and foremost.”
Maurer said people had told him they felt betrayed by the international community’s “tunnel-vision focus on their own nationals at Afghan’s expense.”
“The risk of destabilizing the entire region is real. This is not in the interests of anyone — not neighboring countries nor the international community overall,” he added.