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UN chief warns of looming ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Afghanistan

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan as he urged countries to provide emergency funding following the departure of US forces.

Mr Guterres expressed his “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country,” adding that basic services threatened to collapse “completely.”

“Now more than ever, Afghan children, women and men need the support and solidarity of the international community,” he said in a statement, as he pleaded for financial support from nations.

“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need. I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding,” the secretary-general said.

Mr Guterres announced that the UN would release details of a flash appeal for Afghanistan next week. The information will detail the “most immediate humanitarian needs and funding requirements” needed over the next four months, he said.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths will coordinate “the entire UN system” in preparation of the appeal, Mr Guterres added.

He said almost half of the population of Afghanistan, 18 million people, need urgent humanitarian assistance to survive.

“One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year.

“People are losing access to basic goods and services every day. A humanitarian catastrophe looms,” said the secretary-general.

He added that severe drought and coming harsh winter conditions meant extra food, shelter and health supplies “must be urgently fast-tracked” to Afghanistan.

“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.

Mr Guterres said the commitment of humanitarian agencies to stay in Afghanistan and deliver aid “will not waver.”