Afghanistan Needs $5B Aid as Half of Country Lacks Food, Kids Malnourished: United Nations

The United Nations on Tuesday appealed to give $5 billion to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, a record amount for the organization.

The appeal came from the U.N. Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), along with refugee agency UNCHR. They are hoping to donate $5 billion due to the acute hunger that half of the country, including up to a million children facing malnutrition, is experiencing. OCHA warned that the situation could worsen if aid is not delivered to them immediately.

"We need to get food to the families where they live. We need to get seeds to the farmers where they plow," OCHA head Martin Griffiths said. "We need to get health services to the clinics in locations throughout the country, and we need protection services for all those people who want to return home."

The appeal is seeking $4.4 billion delivered to OCHA and its partners. Another $623 million is being proposed to be delivered to UNCHR for the more than 6 million Afghan refugees around the world. More than 175,000 refugees have already returned to Afghanistan despite worsening conditions.

"The reality is that people go back because the situation is more secure," UNCHR head Filippo Grandi said. "The conflict between the Taliban and the previous government is over. And that has opened up some space of security, which I think we need to take advantage of. But to do that, we need those resources that are part of this appeal."

Martin Griffiths Appeal
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths is seen in a camera preview screen during a press conference on the launch of the 2022 humanitarian response plans for Afghanistan and the region at the United Nations offices in Geneva on January 10, 2022. The UN said it needs $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and offer the ravaged country a future after 40 years of suffering. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The appeal reflects the world body's bid to help beleaguered civilians inside a country now run by a militant group that many Western donor countries once fought—and still oppose. The U.S.-led international coalition left Afghanistan in chaotic scenes as the Taliban overran the country and swept back to power over the summer.

"This is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance, and it is three times the amount needed and actually fundraised in 2021," Griffiths said.

Grandi went on to emphasize the effectiveness of aid and said it "allows for creation of a space of dialogue with the Taliban that is invaluable" around issues that matter to many donors—like women's rights, schooling for girls, and the rights of minorities, which are discussed with the country's new leaders every day.

"It's that space that we need to preserve, because at the moment, the political sphere is a little bit behind," he said.

The U.N. has repeatedly said that Afghans face one of the world's fastest-growing humanitarian crises, with the economy in "free fall" and rights of women and girls "under attack." The funding, if achieved, would amount to the equivalent of about one-fourth of the country's total economic output in 2020, of more than $20 billion, according to the World Bank.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Afghan Children
Children gather before having their meal at the Wazir Akbar Khan hill in northern Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 11, 2022. Children like them could face malnutrition in the coming months, the United Nations said. Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images