The United Nations logo is seen on a window in an empty hallway at United Nations headquarters during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly high-level debate in New York, U.S., September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

The heads of U.N. agencies and international aid groups appealed on Thursday for more humanitarian funding for Afghanistan as they pledged to stay and deliver, warning that they were at least $800 million short of what was needed.

“We will stay in Afghanistan and we will deliver,” the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), made up of the heads of at least 18 U.N. agencies and international aid groups, said in a statement. “This is not the time to abandon the Afghan people.”

At the start of the year, half of Afghanistan’s population – more than 18 million people – needed help, they said. A U.N. appeal for $1.3 billion to reach 16 million people this year with humanitarian aid is only 37% funded.

“Those needs have risen sharply because of conflict, drought, and COVID-19,” they said.

They called on the Taliban to “allow and facilitate safe, rapid, and unimpeded access for humanitarian workers – both male and female staff – so they can deliver aid to civilians in need wherever they are.”

The Taliban seized power on Sunday – 20 years after the Islamist militants were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The United Nations on Wednesday started moving up to a third of its 300 international staff out of Afghanistan to Kazakhstan.

The heads of U.N. agencies and international aid groups said the humanitarian operation in Afghanistan would also depend on funding, movement within, to and from Afghanistan, and access to health facilities.

“The international community has spent decades working with the people of Afghanistan to make progress. Now the international community must continue to support the people of Afghanistan if those gains are not to be reversed. Humanitarian funding must be sustained,” they said.

—Reuters

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