Sept. 6 (UPI) — As a worsening humanitarian crisis looms over Afghanistan, the United Nations said the ruling Taliban have pledged aid workers free movement within the country to deliver food and medical goods to those in need.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement that Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, met Sunday with Taliban leadership in Kabul where he reiterated the humanitarian community’s commitment to deliver “impartial and independent humanitarian assistance and protection.”
In return, the Taliban pledged the safety and security of humanitarian staff and access to those in need, Dujarric said.
Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the meeting between Griffiths and Mullah Baradar, the head of the militant organization, stating the U.N. delegation promised continued humanitarian assistance.
Griffiths, Shaheen tweeted, also said he would “call for further assistance to Afghanistan during the coming meeting of donor countries.”
The Taliban delegation “thanked the U.N. delegation, assuring them of cooperation and provision of needed facilities,” Shaheen said.
Late last week, Ramiz Alakbarov, the U.N.’s deputy special representative and humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, told reporters the World Food Program in the country could be out of food by the end of this month, and that funds are needed to replenish their stock.
“It is extremely important that we prevent Afghanistan from descending farther into a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
The already dire humanitarian situation in the country deepened in mid-August when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan amid the U.S. military withdrawal from the country.
Humanitarian workers have said that prior to the Taliban takeover, some 18 million people, or about half the country’s population, were in need of humanitarian assistance with more than one-third not knowing where their next meal will come from.
Alakbarov said they require at least $200 million just to cover food to ensure the most vulnerable will get enough to eat.
The United Nations in January already made a $1.3 billion request, of which Alakbarov said donor nations have only covered $400 million of.
Guterres early this month called on world leaders to help Afghans as the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis there threatens the collapse of basic services.
Nearly half of all children under the age of five are predicated to become acutely malnourished in the next 12 months, he said.