GENEVA (Dispatches) – The winter season is approaching in Afghanistan and there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance, the UN Refugee Agency said on Tuesday.
Speaking from Kabul via videoconferencing, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said nearly 700,000 people were displaced inside Afghanistan this year, including 50,000 in the capital Kabul alone.
“The window is actually closing every day in terms of the time we have to reach more and more people. Let’s not forget, winter in Afghanistan is harsh,” he said. “Winter in Afghanistan can kill. If people do not have the resources and if you end up being under the open skies, it is really merciless.”
He said that before the events of Aug. 15, when the Taliban took over, half of Afghanistan’s population of 40 million was relying on humanitarian assistance.
“Those needs are rising day by day, and that’s why we’re saying it’s a race against time to reach everyone,” Baloch argued.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has slammed the Taliban’s “broken” promises to Afghan women and girls, and urged the world to inject cash into Afghanistan in order to prevent its economic collapse.
“I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban being broken,” he told reporters on Monday in New York.
“I strongly appeal to the Taliban to keep their promises to women and girls and fulfill their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Millions of teenage girls across Afghanistan still await to return to school, while the Taliban allowed boys to attend classes last month. The move has raised concerns about the future of female education under the Taliban, who have pledged to uphold the rights of girls and women in the country when they took over power in August.
The exclusion of girls at this time has aggravated fears that the Taliban could be returning to their hardline rule of the 1990s. During that time, women and girls were legally barred from education and employment.
The group has also named an all-male cabinet, and said that women could be included later.
Guterres said he is “alarmed” to see promises “be broken”, adding that gender equality is a priority for him.
“Broken promises lead to broken dreams for the women and girls of Afghanistan,” the UN chief said. “Women and girls need to be in the centre of attention,” he added.
Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister appealed to the world for good relations but avoided making firm commitments on girls’ education, despite international demands to allow all Afghan children to go back to school.
“The international community need to start cooperating with us,” acting Foreign Minister Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi said at an event organized by the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies on Monday.
“With this, we will be able to stop insecurity and at the same time with this, we will be able to engage positively with the world.”
But the Taliban has so far refused to give ground on allowing girls to return to high school, one of the key demands of the international community after a decision last month that schools above the sixth grade would only reopen for boys.
Muttaqi said the Taliban government was moving carefully but had only been in power for a few weeks and could not be expected to complete reforms the international community had been unable to implement in 20 years.