Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Voicing new concerns about the Taliban retaking control of Afghanistan, the United Nations on Monday hosted a fundraising effort aiming to collect $600 million in emergency funds by the end of 2021 to help vulnerable Afghan civilians.
The world body held a high-level donors conference in Switzerland and said millions of people in the Middle Eastern nation face widespread hunger.
After decades of fighting and the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces, Afghanistan faces enduring crises that U.N. experts say could force 97% of the population into poverty.
Afghans face displacement, drought, COVID-19 and new Taliban restrictions that have led to a humanitarian crisis, U.N. leaders said.
"It's now a race against time and the snow to deliver life-saving assistance to the Afghan people who need it most," said Anthea Webb, deputy regional director of the World Food Program, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Martin Griffiths, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said Monday that the Taliban need to understand how they will be affected financially if they restrict the rights of women and other groups. He said the money would help 11 million Afghans.
"Two-thirds of [displaced Afghans] we spoke to wanted to go back home," Griffiths said in a statement. "One-third still didn't trust the Taliban, that they would be treated properly back home.
"For the two-thirds who wanted to go back home, all they needed was the price of transport and some help to repair damages to their houses and their community. Money well spent, you would imagine, if we want to stabilize the region and if we want to enable people to stay in Afghanistan instead of fleeing to neighboring countries and beyond."
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Taliban efforts to suppress women's rights, as they did in the 1990s when they last ruled Afghanistan, is complicating humanitarian efforts.
"Importantly, and in contradiction to assurances that the Taliban would uphold women's rights, over the past three weeks, women have instead been progressively excluded from the public sphere," Bachelet said, according to RFE/RL.