Geneva: Even as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a warning against the "serious" possibility of a complete economic collapse in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, the international community has pledged over USD 1.2 billion as aid after UN agencies and non-governmental partners launched a flash appeal.
Guterres highlighted the acute and urgent need for funding support and action in the country here on Monday while convening a high-level ministerial meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, reports Xinhua news agency.
"The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline. After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour," he said during his opening remarks at the meeting.
"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," he added.
The UN chief said that as of today, one in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from, and their basic public services are close to collapse.
Due to a severe drought, many people could run out of food by the end of this month. The threat of economic collapse was discussed at a later press conference on Monday.
The risk comes from limitations in Afghanistan's financial system, meaning that a number of basic economic functions cannot be delivered, according to the UN chief.
In his closing remarks to the meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said more than USD 1.2 billion in humanitarian and development aid has been announced by "very generous member States" for the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis. This includes funding for the flash appeal as well as for the regional response.
"The funding will throw a lifeline to Afghans who lack those services; to the small children that Henrietta Fore of UNICEF spoke of, who face the risk of acute malnutrition; to the many women and girls who could lose their access to reproductive health services, and much more," said the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and head of the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.
In an encounter with journalists on the sidelines of the high-level ministerial meeting, the Secretary-General noted that the fact that nearly 100 member states had taken part - in addition to more than 30 regional and international organisations - underscored that the crisis in Afghanistan remained a crucial issue for the global community.
The UN chief reiterated the importance of ensuring that assistance did not come at the expense of hard-won gains for women and minorities in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
"We are of course very much concerned in making sure that humanitarian assistance is an entry point for effective engagement with the Taliban in all other aspects of concern of the international community," he said.
While immediate concerns have focused on the provision of emergency aid to avert a major humanitarian crisis in the country, Guterres warned that such assistance "will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses. And we know that the risk is enormous and that there is a dramatic lack of cash."
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