‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’ Looms in Afghanistan After US Withdrawal: UN Chief

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
September 1, 2021 Updated: September 1, 2021

The United Nations secretary-general has warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community to provide “flexible and comprehensive funding” to the country in its “darkest hour of need.”

Guterres said he was “gravely concerned at at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country and the threat of basic services collapsing completely.”

He said almost half of the population of Afghanistan—18 million people—need urgent humanitarian assistance to survive.

“One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year. People are losing access to basic goods and services every day. A humanitarian catastrophe looms,”Guterres said.

The United Nations has “delivered aid to 8 million people” this year and delivered food to 80,000 people and relief packages to thousands of displaced families in the last fortnight, according to Guterres.

On Monday, the agency airlifted 12.5 metric tons of medical supplies to the country, he said.

But the secretary-general warned that a severe drought and harsh winter conditions on the horizon means extra food, shelter and health supplies need to be urgently fast-tracked to Afghanistan.

“I call on all parties to facilitate safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for life-saving and life-sustaining supplies, as well as for all humanitarian workers—men and women,” Guterres said.

“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need. I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding. I urge them to help ensure humanitarian workers have the funding, access, and legal safeguards they need to stay and deliver,” he added.

EUCOM Afghan Evacuation Operations
Civilian volunteers sort donations for evacuees from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Aug. 22, 2021. (Airman 1st Class Madelyn Keech/U.S. Air Force/Handout via Reuters)

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the last U.S. troops had departed from Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, just a few hours before dawn.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that more than 12,000 people, including U.S. citizens and Afghan allies, were evacuated over 17 days; the largest airlift in U.S. history.

Biden thanked U.S. forces for their “unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve,” and declared, “now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.”

Earlier this month, Biden vowed to keep U.S. troops in the country until all Americans who wished to leave had been evacuated.

However, U.S. Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie this week admitted that “hundreds” of Americans seeking evacuation have been left in the country.

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” said McKenzie, adding that it is a “tough situation.”

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.