United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on world leaders to help Afghans as a humanitarian catastrophe looms over their Middle Eastern country.
The warning came in the wake of the completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a country now run by the Taliban following 20 years of war.
“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need,” he said on Tuesday. “I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding. I urge them to help ensure humanitarian workers have the funding, access and legal safeguards they need to stay and deliver.”
Guterres said the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country threatens the collapse of basic services. He said the the country is currently suffering from a severe drought and with winter coming, food, shelter and health supplies are urgently needed.
“I call on all parties to facilitate safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for life-saving and life-sustaining supplies, as well as for all humanitarian workers — men and women,” he said.
Nearly half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with one in three Afghans not knowing where their next meal will come from, he said, adding that nearly half of all children under the age of five are predicted to be acutely malnourished in the next 12 months.
“People are losing access to basic goods and services every day. A humanitarian catastrophe looms,” he said. “Now more than ever, Afghan children, women and men need the support and solidarity of the international community.”
Since the country fell to the Taliban in mid August, the United Nations has delivered relief packages to 80,000 people and displaced families, he said, adding that next week he will release details about the most immediate humanitarian needs and funding requirements for the next four months.
The warning was issued a day after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling on the Taliban to facilitate safe passage for people wanting to leave the country and to allow humanitarians entrance.
The measure passed with a vote of 13-2, with Russia and China voting against the resolution.
It also came after Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, issued a similar warning, saying that as the evacuation of thousands of foreigners and Afghans from the country has come to an end a “far greater humanitarian crisis” was just beginning.
Grandi praised the effort for saving tens of thousands of lives but now that it’s over, some 39 million Afghans still remain.
“They need us – governments, humanitarians, ordinary citizens – to stay with them and stay the course,” Grandi said.