Support Afghans in their most perilous hour, urges UN’s Guterres

The United Nations

The international community should urgently offer a “lifeline” to millions of vulnerable Afghans “who face perhaps their most perilous hour”, the UN Secretary-General said on Monday.

Leading the appeal in Geneva for $606 million to support emergency aid for 11 million people across the country, António Guterres said that even before the uncertainty caused by the Taliban takeover last month, people were in the grip of one of the worst crises in the world.

“The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline,” he said. “After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them.”

Highlighting concerns over humanitarian access as needs rise dramatically, Mr. Guterres maintained that the country’s new rulers had pledged their cooperation “to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan. Our staff and all aid workers must be allowed to do their vital work in safety – without harassment, intimidation or fear.”

One in two Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN chief explained, adding that “many people could run out of food by the end of the month, just as winter approaches”.

Rights concerns in spotlight

The flash appeal for food, life-saving interventions and essential health care – including maternal health care – comes against a backdrop of deep concern that women’s rights are under threat from Afghanistan’s new rulers.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, stressed the extent of the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.

It had entered “a new and perilous phase”, she maintained, while many Afghans were also “profoundly concerned for their human rights, particularly women, ethnic and religious communities”.

Ms. Bachelet’s comments followed a warning from her office, OHCHR, that whips, batons and live ammunition have been used on peaceful protesters in the last week.

Unauthorized assemblies have been banned and telecommunications companies have been told to cut the internet on mobile phones in specific areas of Kabul, OHCHR warned last Friday.

Alluding to those concerns at the high-level conference in Geneva, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the need for food, life-saving interventions and essential health care for the people of Afghanistan.

And he insisted that “robust mechanisms” had been established to coordinate humanitarian efforts that were anchored in human rights.

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