September 14, (THEWILL) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says it is too early to say how much has been promised in response to the appeal. He said this halfway through a UN conference seeking $606 million to meet Afghanistan’s most pressing needs.
After decades of war and suffering, Afghans are facing “perhaps their most perilous hour,” he said. “The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country all at once.”
He said food could run out by the end of this month, and the World Food Programme said 14 million people are on the brink of starvation.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to their strict interpretation of Islamic law from 1996-2001 and were toppled in an invasion led by the United States, which accused them of sheltering militants behind the September 11 attacks.
They swept back to power last month in a lightning advance as the last US-led NATO troops pulled out and the forces of the Western-backed government melted away.
With billions of dollars of aid flows abruptly ending due to Western antipathy and distrust towards the Taliban, donors have a “moral obligation” to keep helping Afghans after a 20-year engagement, several speakers in Geneva said.
Neighbours China and Pakistan have already offered help.
However, UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet, also in Geneva, underlined Western misgivings. She accused the Taliban of breaking recent promises by ordering women to stay at home rather than work, keeping teenage girls out of school, and persecuting former opponents.
Last week, Beijing promised $31 million worth of food and health supplies. On Friday, it said it would send the first batch of 3 million coronavirus vaccines.
Pakistan sent food and medicine, and it called for Afghan assets frozen abroad to be released. Iran said it had dispatched an air cargo of aid.
“Past mistakes must not be repeated. The Afghan people must not be abandoned,” said Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, whose country has close relations with the Taliban and would most likely bear the brunt of an exodus of refugees.
Meanwhile, China and Russia have said the main burden of helping Afghanistan out of the crisis should lie with Western countries.