Donors have given more than $1.1 billion to help Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger have risen dramatically since the Islamist Taliban came to power, and outside aid has dried up, creating the threat of a mass exodus.
Speaking midway through a U.N. conference requesting $606 million to satisfy Afghanistan’s most critical needs, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was too early to say how much had been committed in response to the call.
Afghans are facing “probably their most perilous hour” after decades of war and hardship, he added.
“The people of Afghanistan are seeing the simultaneous downfall of a whole country.”
He predicted that food would run out by the end of the month, and that 14 million people were on the verge of hunger, according to the World Food Programme.
From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law before being deposed in an operation led by the United States, which accused them of hiding terrorists behind the September 11 attacks.
They swept back to power in a rapid advance last month, as the last US-led NATO troops withdrew and the Western-backed government’s forces fell away.
Following the unexpected cessation of billions of dollars in aid due to Western hostility and distrust of the Taliban, numerous speakers in Geneva stated that donors had a “moral commitment” to continue assisting Afghans after a 20-year involvement.
China and Pakistan, both neighbors, had previously pledged assistance.
However, U.N. human rights director Michelle Bachelet, who was also in Geneva, echoed Western concerns. She accused the Taliban of breaching recent promises by ordering women to stay at home instead of going to work, preventing adolescent females from attending school, and persecuting erstwhile opponents.
Last week, Beijing pledged $31 million in food and medical supplies, and on Friday, it announced the shipment of a first batch of 3 million coronavirus vaccines.