New York [US], September 14 (ANI): The international community should urgently offer a "lifeline" to millions of vulnerable Afghans "who face perhaps their most perilous hour", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.
Leading the appeal in Geneva for USD 606 million to support emergency aid for 11 million people across the country, Guterres said that even before the uncertainty caused by the Taliban takeover last month, people were in the grip of one of the worst crises in the world.
"The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline," he said. "After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them."
Highlighting concerns over humanitarian access as needs rise dramatically, Guterres maintained that the country's new rulers had pledged their cooperation "to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan. Our staff and all aid workers must be allowed to do their vital work in safety -- without harassment, intimidation or fear."
One in two Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN chief explained, adding that "many people could run out of food by the end of the month, just as winter approaches".
Addressing the conference, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, underscored the desperate situation for many Afghans.
"Nearly 600,000 people - more than half of whom are children - have been displaced due to conflict this year," she said.
"The number of unaccompanied and separated children is increasing, and we have received informal reports of the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict and are concerned that children may be at a heightened risk of experiencing other grave violations of their rights."
Echoing the UN's determination to "stand by" the people of Afghanistan and protect "hard-won gains" for the country's people over the last 20 years, UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths noted that he had received written assurances from the Taliban leadership to allow relief efforts to continue.
These guarantees followed his meeting with the Taliban's interim leaders in Kabul last week, where he urged the country's new rulers to respect human rights and facilitate aid access.
Women and girls should have access to education, among other rights and services "as anywhere else in the world", Griffiths insisted, before revealing that the Taliban's written commitments included the removal of "current and previous impediments" to the UN's humanitarian projects.
Aid workers would also be protected by the Taliban, as would the sanctity of UN premises, the UN emergency relief chief explained, adding that they were in agreement about women's rights and freedom of expression, in line with the country's religious and cultural values. (ANI)