Young balloon vendors walk as they look for customers along a street in Kabul on Wednesday. AFP
Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis is growing alarmingly worse, a top UN official warned on Wednesday, calling on the international community to do more to help the war-torn nation.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, World Food Programme Afghanistan director, said the country's economy is on the brink of collapse and a humanitarian crisis has "escalated and magnified at an incredible pace" over the past few weeks.
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"It's the first time I've seen a crisis like this escalate and accelerate at the pace and scale that it is," Mary-Ellen McGroarty told reporters in New York during a video press conference.
An Afghan security guard walks through a gate at the passport office in Kabul on Wednesday. AFP
Before the Taliban seized power in mid-August, Afghanistan already "had a humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions," affecting some 18 million people, McGroarty said. "It's just escalating and getting worse."
"We expect those numbers to increase, and particularly around the issues of food and of malnutrition," she added.
With a liquidity crisis causing Afghans to "become more and more desperate and have less and less money," the UN official urged the international community to be more generous in providing aid to Afghanistan as it prepares for the dreaded winter season.
Asked whether the Taliban were hampering deliveries of humanitarian aid, McGroarty said no.
"We haven't really come up against any obstacles," she said, adding that aid was based on "humanitarian principles, impartiality, neutrality and operational independence."
China and Russia reiterated their calls for unfreezing Afghan assets, while US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration is examining "various options to ease the liquidity crunch.”
Half the Afghan children under age five are at risk of acute malnutrition and there is an outbreak of measles in every single province which is "a red light” and "the canary in the mine” for what’s happening in society, he said.
The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the UN Human Rights Office attributed the drop in civilian casualties in part to an apparent tactical change by insurgents to targeted killings, fewer suicide bombings and a stark drop in casualties attributed to international military forces.
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