UN chief urges donors to give Afghans ‘lifeline’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Geneva: ‘This conference is not simply about what we will give to the people of Afghanistan. It is about what we owe’

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Monday urged countries to dig deep and provide desperately needed aid to Afghans, and to support women and others whose rights appear threatened by the Taliban.

Speaking to ministers gathered for a donor conference for the violence-torn country, Guterres insisted that “the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline”.

“Let us be clear: This conference is not simply about what we will give to the people of Afghanistan. It is about what we owe.”

As the meeting ended, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said donor countries pledged a total of $1.2 billion in aid, but did not say how much was earmarked for the UN appeal for emergency assistance.

Among other things, the money is needed for critical food and livelihood assistance for nearly 11 million people and essential health services for 3.4 million.

Guterres stressed that Afghans were experiencing “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world” even before the Taliban takeover on August 15.

Afghanistan is also facing a devastating drought and mass displacement as well as the impact of Covid-19.

Guterres announced that the UN would release $20 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to support the humanitarian operation in Afghanistan.

A number of UN agency and other aid chiefs echoed that sentiment.

He urged countries to “please step up, step up now so that we can do our job”.

And the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, just back from Afghanistan, said “the magnitude of need is evident”, adding “the risk of destabilising the entire region is real”.

Beyond the humanitarian crisis, Guterres and others also highlighted the need to safeguard human rights in the country, and especially to protect the gains made for women and girls over the past two decades.

The Islamist hardliners have pledged a more moderate brand of rule than in their notoriously oppressive 1996-2001 reign.

But on the ground, they have moved swiftly to crush dissent and there are worrying signs when it comes to the rights of women.

She also decried “credible allegations” of reprisal killings of former members of the security forces, and “increasing violence against protesters and journalists”.

Originally published as UN chief urges donors to give Afghans ‘lifeline’

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