(Reuters) – Conflict, drought and the pandemic have rendered 18 million Afghans in need of humanitarian assistance, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Tuesday, calling for urgent international action.
Foreign governments have pledged continued humanitarian support, but there is no clarity on how this help will be delivered following the fall of Kabul to the Islamist militant Taliban movement last month.
“Some 18 million Afghans – half the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance as severe drought compounds hardships caused by years of conflict and the pandemic,” an IFRC statement said.
It added that tens of thousands of families have left their homes, seeking food and shelter in urban areas where some are staying in relief camps without food or income.
The Taliban, too, have appealed to the international community to continue support for Afghanistan. On Sunday, a Taliban spokesman said the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, had promised to maintain assistance to the Afghan people.
Western countries pulled out their diplomatic presence as international forces withdrew from the country and the Western-backed government capitulated as a lightning Taliban offensive culminated in the capture of Kabul in mid-August.
But, foreign governments have yet to recognise the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.
Asked whether the United States would recognise the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House late Monday: “That’s a long way off.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, whose country has increased its aid budget for Afghanistan, said last week that humanitarian assistance would flow through agencies and not to the Taliban directly.
Western countries fear that the looming humanitarian crisis and economic collapse could result in hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.
The IFRC said it is scaling up its appeal to more than 36 million Swiss francs ($39.34 million) to support the Afghan Red Crescent to deliver emergency relief and recovery assistance to 560,000 people in 16 provinces worst affected by drought and compounding conflict-induced displacement.
($1 = 0.9150 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Islamabad bureau; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)