The United Nations has said it needed nearly $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan in 2022, as the global body launched its largest ever humanitarian appeal for a single country to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

The UN humanitarian agency on Tuesday said $4.4 billion was needed within Afghanistan, while a further $623m was required to support the millions of Afghans sheltering beyond its borders.

More than half the population – about 22 million people – face acute hunger, the UN said, adding a further 5.7 million displaced Afghans in five neighbouring countries needed vital relief this year.

“A full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms. My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan,” said UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.

“Help us scale up and stave off widespread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death.”

Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging after Washington froze billions of dollars of the country’s assets and international financial institutions suspending funds. Moreover, aid supplies have been heavily disrupted due to US sanctions.

Afghanistan also suffered its worst drought in decades in 2021.

Without the aid package, “there won’t be a future”, Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

In response to the UN appeal, the United States promised more than $308 million in an initial aid package for Afghanistan this year.

The money will provide for food and nutrition for vulnerable people, health care facilities, winterisation programmes and logistics support, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement.

Speaking from Kabul, UNICEF chief of communications Sam Mort said that “Afghanistan was descending into the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. The scale of suffering is at unprecedented scale.

“Without action, one in two children will be acutely malnourished. On top of that, Afghanistan is experiencing the worst drought in 27 years, rising food poverty and unemployment. All of this has been on the background on winter,” she added.

‘40 years of insecurity’

Griffiths said the appeal, if funded, would help aid agencies ramp up the delivery of food and agriculture support, health services, malnutrition treatment, emergency shelters, access to water and sanitation, protection and education.

An estimated 4.7 million people will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022, including 1.1 million children with severe acute malnutrition.

Griffiths said without humanitarian aid, distress, deaths, hunger and further mass displacement would follow, “robbing the people of Afghanistan of the hope that their country will be their home and support, now and in the near term”.

However, if international donors come forward, “we will see the opportunity for an Afghanistan which may finally see the fruits of some kind of security”.

Fear of implosion

Griffiths said the security situation for humanitarian organisations in Afghanistan was probably better now than for many years, adding that the staff in the ministries in Kabul largely remained the same as before the Taliban takeover.

He said the UN Security Council’s move in December to help humanitarian aid reach desperate Afghans, without violating international sanctions aimed at isolating the Taliban, had made the operating environment for donors and humanitarians on the ground much more comfortable.

The money will go to 160 NGOs plus UN agencies delivering aid. Some will be used to pay front-line workers such as healthcare staff – but not via the Taliban administration.

About eight million children could miss out on their education because teachers largely have not been paid since August, Griffiths said.

UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi said the aid package’s goal was to stabilise the situation within Afghanistan, including for internally displaced people, thereby preventing a further flood of migrants fleeing across the country’s borders.

“That movement of people will be difficult to manage, in the region and beyond, because it will not stop at the region,” he said.

“If those efforts are not successful, we will have to ask for $10bn next year, not $5bn,” he added.


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