Watch CBS News

U.N. raises funds for Afghanistan "lifeline" as starvation looms

Humanitarian crisis building in Afghanistan
U.N. sounds alarm on humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan 02:23

United Nations — The United Nations held an emergency financial appeal meeting in Geneva on Monday to raise funds for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, whose people "need a lifeline," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said. 

"After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour," Guterres said.

After the meeting, Guterres said more than $1 billion in aid pledges for Afghanistan had been made, much of which will go towards Monday's fundraising goal of $600 million. 

The picture painted by the U.N. chief is grim: "One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. The poverty rate is spiraling — and basic public services are close to collapse. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes." 

Moreover, he warned, "Afghanistan faces a severe drought — the second to hit the country in four years. Many people could run out of food by the end of this month, just as winter approaches."

After the recent Taliban takeover brought an abrupt end to billions of dollars in foreign aid, the new government announced an all-male leadership team and new rules for women's education, further isolating itself from the West, CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. 

Displacement of Afghans fleeing the Taliban and worsening economic conditions in the country are a major concern, U.N. officials from several agencies said Monday. The U.N. refugee chief, Filippo Grande, arrived in Kabul to assess the "situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans."

The stark warnings come as 20 U.N. agencies hope to stay and continue their humanitarian work in Afghanistan. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, traveled to Kabul last week to meet with the leadership of the Taliban about their role. 

"He reinforced our commitment to deliver impartial and independent humanitarian assistance and protection to millions of people in need," Guterres said. 

Those measures should include urgent assistance to help save Afghanistan's wheat harvest, to help prevent famine amid the drought, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, QU Dongyu, said at Monday's U.N. meeting.

President Biden's U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced $64 million in humanitarian assistance from the U.S., saying, "the situation is dire." 

Thomas-Greenfield cited the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, whose executive director, Henrietta Fore, predicted that one million children under the age of 5 may soon face severe, acute malnutrition. 

"One million! One child dying of preventable hunger is too many. One million is unthinkable," Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that the new funding means that the United States has provided $330 million in assistance to Afghans in this fiscal year.

She called for the international community to unite to both support the aid efforts and hold the Taliban accountable, acknowledging, "We have all heard the reports that the Taliban are obstructing and interfering in aid."

But, she said, the world must "commit to standing by humanitarian workers as they do their all-important work, and to stepping up humanitarian action in Afghanistan so that we can save the lives of Afghans in need."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.