Farzana holds her one-year-old baby at the malnutrition ward for infants at the Indira Gandhi hospital in Kabul. Reuters
In a rare joint appeal, the leaders of Pakistan and China on Tuesday urged the international community to swiftly send humanitarian and economic aid to Afghanistan, where people are facing food and medicine shortages in the shadow of winter.
Afghanistan is on the brink of one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, UN agencies warned, with more than half the country facing "acute" food shortages.
A government statement said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Afghanistan by phone, saying afterward that people there need international help "to alleviate their suffering, prevent instability" and rebuild after the United States withdrew and the Taliban seized power in August.
President Xi Jinping greets Imran Khan before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. File / AP
The latest development came a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met the Taliban representatives in Qatar to discuss a range of issues.
Pakistan and China are a longtime allies and along with other countries, they've sent humanitarian aid to Kabul over the past two months.
Pakistan wants the world community to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets to enable Kabul use its own money to avert the deepening crisis.
A man with his children outside a tent at the Shamal Darya IDP camp. AFP
Currently, the Taliban government does not have access to the Afghanistan central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.
WORLD'S WORST HUMANITARIAN CRISES
More than 22 million Afghans will suffer food insecurity this winter, they said, as a drought driven by climate change adds to the disruption caused by the chaotic Taliban takeover of the country.
"This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance," said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).
The crisis is already bigger in scale than the shortages facing war-torn Yemen or Syria, and worse than any food insecurity emergency apart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said.
"Afghanistan is now among the world's worst humanitarian crises — if not the worst — and food security has all but collapsed," Beasley said in a statement.
"We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don't act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands."
According to the statement issued by the World Food Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, one in two Afghans faces Phase 3 "crisis" or Phase 4 "emergency" food shortages.
Phase 4 is one step below a famine, and officials told AFP that Afghanistan — already struggling to emerge from a 20-year civil war — is facing its worst winter in a decade.
FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: "It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people — including farmers, women, young children and the elderly — going hungry in the freezing winter."Agencies
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