KABUL: The United Nations has said it needed nearly $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan in 2022, as the global body launched its largest-ever humanitarian appeal for a single country to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

The UN humanitarian agency on Tuesday said $4.4 billion was needed within Afghanistan, while a further $623m was required to support the millions of Afghans sheltering beyond its borders.

More than half the population – about 22 million people – face acute hunger, the UN said, adding a further 5.7 million displaced Afghans in five neighbouring countries needed vital relief this year.

“A full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms. My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan,” said UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.

“Help us scale up and stave off widespread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death.”

Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging after Washington froze billions of dollars of the country’s assets and international financial institutions suspending funds. Moreover, aid supplies have been heavily disrupted due to US sanctions.

Afghanistan also suffered its worst drought in decades in 2021.

Without the aid package, “there won’t be a future”, Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

In response to the UN appeal, the United States promised more than $308 million in an initial aid package for Afghanistan this year.

The money will provide for food and nutrition for vulnerable people, health care facilities, winterisation programmes and logistics support, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement.

Speaking from Kabul, UNICEF chief of communications Sam Mort said that “Afghanistan was descending into the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. The scale of suffering is at an unprecedented scale.

“Without action, one in two children will be acutely malnourished. On top of that, Afghanistan is experiencing the worst drought in 27 years, rising food poverty and unemployment. All of this has been on the background on winter,” she added.

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