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U.N. asks donors worldwide for $600 million to help needy in Afghanistan

Refugees are evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021. Photo by Hassan Majeed/UPI
Refugees are evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021. Photo by Hassan Majeed/UPI | License Photo

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.

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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.

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"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.

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"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.

RELATED Up to 97% of Afghanistan's people face poverty without aid, U.N. study says

"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.

RELATED Taliban may rely on minerals, drugs, China to finance Afghan government

U.S. forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan two weeks ago after maintaining a constant presence since immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Scenes from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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