United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on the international community to provide humanitarian aid and a “lifeline” for Afghan people following years of conflict and the Taliban’s shock takeover of the war-ravaged country.
Guterres made the plea at a donor conference attended by European Union ministers in Geneva on Monday, saying the international community should dig deep and provide desperately needed aid to Afghans as "the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline."
"After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country — all at once," he warned at the gathering. "Let us be clear: This conference is not simply about what we will give to the people of Afghanistan. It is about what we owe."
Guterres made the comment a month after the Taliban swept into power in Afghanistan following the hasty withdrawal of NATO troops that ended the United States’ 20-year military presence in the country.
The Monday conference is seeking to raise the $606-million humanitarian agencies say is urgently needed to provide life-saving aid to millions of Afghans by the end of the year.
Among other things, the money is needed for critical food and livelihood assistance for nearly 11 million people and essential health services for 3.4 million.
Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general's special representative on Afghanistan, urged countries last week to keep money flowing in despite concerns over the Taliban government to "prevent a total breakdown of the economy and social order.”
UN chief stresses need for rights protection in Afghanistan
During the Monday conference, Guterres also highlighted the need to safeguard human rights in Afghanistan and to support women whose rights appear threatened by the Taliban.
"One of the bright spots of Afghanistan today is the new generation of women leaders and entrepreneurs, educated and flourishing over the last two decades," he said.
"Afghan women and girls want to ensure that gains are not lost, doors are not closed and hope is not extinguished," Guterres stressed.
The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban.
On September 7, the Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government.
During their previous rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban excluded women from public life. The group has now pledged to respect progress made in women's rights over the past years.
The Taliban have also decreed that under the new rules, women may work “in accordance with the principles of Islam,” but few details have yet been given as to what that exactly might mean.
Taliban co-founder rejects death rumors
Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban co-founder and now deputy prime minister of Afghanistan, rejected on Monday the rumors of his demise that had gone viral on social media.
Baradar said in an audio statement that he was alive and well, blaming "fake propaganda" for the death rumors claiming he had been mortally wounded in a shootout between rival Taliban factions at the presidential palace.
"There had been news in the media about my death," Baradar said in the clip. "Over the past few nights I have been away on trips. Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends."
The Taliban co-founder added, "Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, reject bravely all those lies, and I 100 percent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem."
The audio message was posted on official Taliban sites, including that of the spokesman of the new government’s political office in Kabul.