KABUL: File photo shows an Afghan woman, wearing the Taleban-imposed burqa, waits near a militiaman to receive a blanket, a quilt and warm clothes from aid workers as part of a UN winter relief distribution program. – AFP

GENEVA: The United Nations said yesterday that its flash appeal for more than $600 million to support the humanitarian response in Afghanistan until the end of the year was now fully funded. According to the UN, Afghanistan is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, with more than half of its population at risk of not having enough to eat during the coming winter.

Following the Taleban takeover of the country in August, the UN held a ministerial meeting in Geneva in September, asking international donors for urgent support. “We can now report that the flash appeal is 100 percent funded,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters in Geneva.

The main donors were the United States, European countries and Japan, who helped reached the total funding goal of $606 million (539 million euros). The funds are directed towards helping the 11 million most deprived people in Afghanistan. Laerke said that between September 1 and November 15, the UN and its non-governmental organisation partners provided food assistance to 7.2 million people. They also provided healthcare to nearly 900,000 people. Nearly 200,000 drought-affected people have been assisted with water trucking and 178,000 children under the age of five have been treated for acute malnutrition, he added.

“However, not all funding has been translated into action because of the crisis in Afghanistan’s banking and financial system. And half of the population still need emergency aid,” he said. Laerke added that access had recently improved and the humanitarian effort now had access to all areas in Afghanistan.
“The big problem now is impeding the economic collapse of the country,” he said. Afghanistan’s food shortage is caused by a drought coupled with an economic crisis that has deepened since the Taleban took power.

The financial crunch was aggravated after Washington froze about $10 billion of assets held in its reserve for Kabul and deteriorated further after the World Bank and International Monetary Fund halted Afghanistan’s access to funding. – AFP