United Nations warns Afghanistan faces 'humanitarian catastrophe'

Top UN official says Afghans live under 'the threat of basic services collapsing completely'

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned Tuesday of a looming "humanitarian catastrophe"  in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal and urged the international community to provide aid to support its populace.

Guterres said Afghans live under "the threat of basic services collapsing completely" amid the Taliban’s takeover of the country. He added that "almost half" of Afghanistan’s population is reliant on humanitarian aid to survive.

"I urge all Member States to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need," Guterres said in a statement. "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."

The UN’s warning followed the departure of the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Monday. Secretary of State Tony Blinken pointed to the severe conditions being experienced by the Afghan people in a speech earlier this week, noting that "millions" have been internally displaced or face "hunger, even starvation."

Blinken said the U.S. was committed to providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. He added the Biden administration would take steps to ensure the aid would "not flow through the government" controlled by the Taliban, but rather through UN entities and non-government organizations.

The United Nations has "delivered aid to 8 million people" this year and airlifted 12.5 metric tons of medical supplies to the country on Monday, according to Guterres.

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"Amid a severe drought and with harsh winter conditions on the horizon, extra food, shelter and health supplies must be urgently fast-tracked into the country," he added. "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."