UN ramps up Afghan aid appeal as 'catastrophe' looms

A Taliban fighter stands guard as Afghan women take part in a protest march in the downtown area of Kabul on Sept 3, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations appealed for almost US$200 million (S$268 million) in extra funding for life-saving aid in Afghanistan after the Taliban's takeover sparked a host of new issues.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said the extra sum meant a total of US$606 million in aid was now needed for Afghanistan until the end of the year.

"Basic services in Afghanistan are collapsing, and food and other life-saving aid is about to run out," said Ocha spokesman Jens Laerke on Tuesday (Sept 7).

The issue will be discussed next Monday at a ministerial meeting in Geneva hosted by UN chief Antonio Guterres.

The country, now under the control of the Taliban after 20 years of war, is facing a "looming humanitarian catastrophe", Mr Guterres' spokesman, Mr Stephane Dujarric, warned last week when announcing the conference.

Ocha voiced hope that countries would pledge generously at the conference, saying US$606 million was needed to provide critical food and livelihood assistance to nearly 11 million people, and essential health services to 3.4 million.

The funds would also go towards treatment for acute malnutrition for more than a million children and women, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, and protection of children and survivors of gender-based violence.

Most of the requested funds had already been asked for at the end of last year as part of a US$1.3-billion humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan, which remains severely underfunded.

Even before the Taliban victory, Afghanistan was heavily aid-dependent, with 40 per cent of the country's gross domestic product drawn from foreign funding.

The UN has warned that 18 million people are facing a humanitarian disaster, and another 18 million could quickly join them.

A full US$413 million of Tuesday's appeal were unmet needs from the previous appeal, while US$193 million would go towards new emerging needs and changes in operating costs, Ocha said.

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