By Ebi Kesiena
The United Nations (UN) has raised up to USD1.2billion in emergency pledges to help 11 million Afghans facing an escalating humanitarian crisis in their homeland and millions more elsewhere in the region, as the UN Human Rights Chief voiced concerns about the Taliban’s first steps in establishing power in the beleaguered and impoverished country.
At the first high-level conference on Afghanistan since the Taliban took power a month ago, Western governments, big traditional donors and others announced pledges that went beyond the $606 million that the UN was seeking to cover costs through the end of the year for protecting Afghans from looming humanitarian disaster.
UN Humanitarian Chief, Martin Griffiths, announced at the close of the Ministerial Meeting that more than USD1.2billion in humanitarian and development aid had been pledged.
He stated that this included the USD606million sought in a flash appeal, but also a regional response to the Afghan crisis that UN refugee Chief Filippo Grandi spoke about after arriving in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit.
Griffiths, wrote on Twitter that he would assess humanitarian needs and the situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans, including over 500,000 displaced this year alone.
Officials at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have expressed concerns that more Afghans could take refuge into neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, which both already have large numbers of Afghans who fled their country during the past decades of war.
Griffiths urged donors to turn their pledges into cash contributions as fast as possible, saying the funding will throw a lifeline to Afghans who lack food, health care and protection.
He said the meeting showed solidarity with the Afghan people, but added that Afghanistan faces a long and hard road ahead and this is far from the end of the journey.
However, it is feared that Afghanistan could further plunge toward famine and economic collapse after the chaos of the past month, which saw the Taliban oust the government in a lightning sweep as US and NATO forces exited the 20-year war.