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More than US$5 billion aid sought for Afghans

Afghanistan needs more than $5 billion in aid to avert looming humanitarian and economic crises, the United Nations said in its largest-ever such appeal.

People receiving humanitarian aid in Kunduz, Afghanistan
People receiving humanitarian aid in Kunduz, Afghanistan (AN/Wanman Uthmaniyyah)

GENEVA (AN) — The United Nations launched a campaign to raise more than US$5 billion in aid for the tens of millions of Afghans living in or fleeing their nation since the Taliban seized power in August of last year.

U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths called it "the largest ever appeal" by the world body with the goal of helping more than 22 million people in Afghanistan and 5.7 million Afghan refugees who fled to five neighboring countries.

He expressed confidence that other nations would show their "solidarity and generosity" by donating money to Afghans who have been facing a severe economic and humanitarian crisis since the Taliban seized power as U.S. and NATO forces withdrew in August of last year.

"Conditions on the ground, for most families, are simply untenable for women, men, children and older people, all, and all of this through no fault of their own.

More than half of the population of Afghanistan now depends on life-saving assistance, a staggering 30% increase in 2022 over those in need in 2021. Health care and other essential services are faltering and at risk of collapse," Griffiths told the pledging conference.

"Millions of people depend on food assistance to survive," he said. "And without intervention of the sort that we are describing today, nearly 4 million children under age five will be malnourished this year — over 1 million of those children severely so."

Griffiths, who heads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said US$4.4 billion is needed for the U.N. and its humanitarian partners to assist roughly half of Afghanistan's population, or more than 22 million Afghans, with food, health care, livelihoods and other lifesaving aid.

It also called for US$623 million to help the 5.7 million Afghan refugees who have fled to neighboring Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The aid would equal about a quarter of Afghanistan’s US$19.8 billion GDP in 2020, according to World Bank figures. OCHA's Central Emergency Response Fund already sent a US$45 million injection of aid to the country this year, on top of US$93 million last year.

"We recognize that life-saving assistance is but one element for the international response and needs to be linked to attention to the economy, attention to capacity, attention to the stabilization of basic services," Griffiths told the pledging conference. "But for now, life-saving assistance is the essential first step, and we rely on your generosity for it."

Afghanistan's economy has been in "freefall," losing an estimated 40% GDP since the Taliban takeover, he noted, and the trend is expected to continue amid drought and surging prices for wheat and fuel that force families to spend nearly all their income on food.

The Taliban appointed an all-male government and renewed severe restrictions on women despite promising more tolerance of women and minorities. The International Monetary Fund suspended Afghanistan's access to IMF resources, including US$450 million in new reserves, while the United States froze almost US$9.5 billion in assets from Afghanistan's central bank.

“Afghanistan is unfortunately experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis of its contemporary history and perhaps one of the worst in the world,” said Afghanistan’s U.N. Ambassador in Geneva Nasir Ahmad Andisha.

“My country is facing simultaneously an economic downfall, food insecurity, banking and fiscal crisis, climate change and unemployment, over and above all a reversal of fundamental rights and freedoms including sidelining half of its population."