Afghanistan Crisis

With crisis looming in Afghanistan, U.N. hosts donor conference

Published : September 13, 2021 19:44 IST

Drought, the COVID pandemic and the Taliban takeover have contributed to a potential humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. Photo: Saeed Ali Achakzai/REUTERS

Aid funding has dried up since the Taliban takeover and experts have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. is hosting a donor conference in Geneva on September 13 in a bid to raise $606 million (€513 million) needed by December to keep aid programs in Afghanistan afloat.

Since the collapse of the Western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban takeover in August, Afghanistan stands on the brink of a growing humanitarian crisis. Many countries that were willing to provide aid now express growing hesitation due to concerns about how funds will be spent with the Taliban in power.

Where is the aid for Afghanistan needed most immediately?

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who hosted the meeting, said in his opening remarks that "the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline" during "their most perilous hour." "The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country — all at once," he said.

The U.N. says humanitarian aid money would go to maintain medical services, the water supply and sanitation for millions of Afghans. Additionally, funding would support women and children and set up educational projects. Funding for emergency shelters is also requested as 3.5 million Afghans are internally displaced. Money is also desperately needed for food aid.

A survey of 1,600 Afghans the World Food Program carried out this month and last showed 93 per cent of those surveyed lacked sufficient food, mostly because they could not get access to cash to pay for items. "Banks are closed. The central bank doesn't issue liquidity to the private banks," Stefan Recker, the Country Director of Caritas in Afghanistan, told DW. "So aid agencies which want to work which want to deliver aid simply cannot due to lack of liquidity."

Even before the Taliban takeover, circumstances in Afghanistan were dire, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, World Food Programme's Country Director for Afghanistan, told DW. Drought and the coronavirus pandemic contributed to 14 million people being in severe hunger. "It's critical for the humanitarian effort that in the greatest time of need, that the international community stands alongside the women and children and men of Afghanistan, whose lives have been upended through no fault of their own," she said.

Who is taking part in the Afghanistan aid conference?

Forty ministers including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and U.N. Secretary General Guterres, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, as well as dozens of government representatives are attending both in person and virtually. The German foreign minister said it was up to the international community to "take responsibility" for the people in Afghanistan. But aid agencies needed "proper access" and aid workers had to be able to carry out their work "without fear of intimidation tyranny or restrictions by the Taliban."

Germany pledges millions in aid

Maas said on September 13 that Germany has increased its humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and the region by €100 million. "We plan to provide a further €500 million to support Afghanistan and its neighboring states," Maas told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

German Development Minister Gerd Müller warned of a looming humanitarian crisis. He called for a reform to the way international aid is set up. With an emergency U.N. fund of €10 billion, "we could prevent global deaths from hunger in advance," he told the Funke Media Group on September 13.

Situation in Afghanistan a 'race against time'

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. refugee commissioner, warned on September 12 that a "resurgence of fighting, human rights violations or the collapse of the economy and basic social services" could cause more Afghans to flee abroad. He landed in Kabul on September 13 to assess the situation where he was greeted by Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani, the Taliban's acting minister of refugees and repatriation and an important leader of the Haqqani network who has a $5 million (€4.24 million) American bounty on his head.

Anthea Webb, the World Food Programme's deputy regional director, described the situation as "a race against time and the snow to deliver life-saving assistance to the Afghan people who need it most."

ar/rt (dpa, Reuters)