FILE PHOTO: Displaced Afghan women wait to receive aid supply from UNHCR agency outside the distribution center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

March 31, 2022

(Reuters) – The United Nations is seeking $4.4 billion for Afghanistan at an international virtual event on Thursday in the largest humanitarian appeal launched for a single country even as concerns mount over Taliban rule.

Ahead of the drive, Britain pledged 286 million pounds ($374 million) for Afghanistan, where six out of every 10 Afghans need aid, much of it food, amid an economic crisis worsened by a financial aid cutoff following the Taliban takeover in August.

“Afghans need our help in enabling their economy, sustaining their agriculture and enabling the basic functioning of social services,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told a news briefing ahead of the event co-hosted with Britain, Germany and Qatar.

The U.N. says funds under the appeal — three times the amount requested in 2021 and only 13% funded so far — go directly to aid agencies and none are channelled through the de facto authorities who swept to power as the last U.S. troops withdrew.

In a sign that recent Taliban moves on human rights and inclusivity may directly impact willingness to help the group, the United States cancelled meetings with them in Qatar after the movement reversed a decision on girls returning to high school study.

“We want to see those prohibitions, those constraints removed. I hope it will not mean that the pledges that we have from this conference are limited by that because I can tell you that there are efforts ongoing,” Griffiths said.

He urged political engagement with the hardline Islamist administration, saying that based on his talks in Kabul they want “a constructive path forward” with the global community, and that isolating Afghanistan would only bring more suffering.

Roughly 23 million people face acute food insecurity as Afghanistan also experiences its worst drought in 30 years.

“(I) call on the world to come in with us to pledge substantially and at the same time not forget that the Taliban … have to live up to their responsibilities,” German foreign ministry official Ricklef Beutin told the briefing.

(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by William Maclean)

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