The United Nations said Tuesday it needed $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan in 2022 to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and offer the ravaged country a future after 40 years of suffering.
In its biggest-ever single-country appeal, the UN said $4.4 billion (3.9 billion euros) was needed within Afghanistan, while a further $623 million was required to support the millions of Afghans sheltering beyond its borders.
The UN said 22 million people inside Afghanistan and 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 aid chief Martin Griffiths.
"Help us scale up and stave off wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death."
Since the Taliban hardline Islamist movement seized control in mid-August as the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging.
Washington has frozen billions of dollars of the country's assets, while aid supplies have been heavily disrupted.
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.
- '40 years of insecurity' -
The Taliban authorities said the aid appeal for suffering Afghans was "very needed".
"But at the same time I would like to say the need is for all this assistance approved in the past to be delivered during this harsh winter," senior Taliban leader Suhail Shaheen, the group's designated UN representative, told AFP.
He said the inflow of funds would also help in the functioning of the now dilapidated banking system, adding that any cash coming into the country will help rein in the inflation.
"The banks are not working properly so there is also a need to control the inflation and that can be controlled when dollars ... hard currency come to Afghanistan," Shaheen said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said injecting cash into the economy was critical to get the wheels of the economy turning again and avoid a further slide into deeper pain and poverty.
Griffiths said the appeal, if funded, would help aid agencies ramp up the delivery of food and agriculture support, health services, malnutrition treatment, emergency shelters, access to water and sanitation, protection and education.
An estimated 4.7 million people will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022, including 1.1 million children with severe acute malnutrition.
Griffiths said that without humanitarian aid, distress, deaths, hunger and further mass displacement would follow, "robbing the people of Afghanistan of the hope that their country will be their home and support, now and in the near term".
However, if international donors come forward, "we will see the opportunity for an Afghanistan which may finally see the fruits of some kind of security."
The United States, saying it "remains committed to helping the people of Afghanistan", pledged an initial $308 million to provide life-saving aid for the most vulnerable in the country this year.
- Fear of implosion -
Griffiths said the security situation for humanitarian organisations in Afghanistan was probably better now than for many years, adding that the staff in the ministries in Kabul largely remained the same as before the Taliban takeover.
The money will go to 160 NGOs plus UN agencies delivering aid. Some will be used to pay frontline workers such as healthcare staff -- but not via the Taliban administration.
UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi said the aid package's goal was to stabilise the situation within Afghanistan, including for internally displaced people, thereby preventing a further flood of migrants fleeing across the country's borders.
"That movement of people will be difficult to manage, in the region and beyond, because it will not stop at the region," he said.
"If those efforts are not successful, we will have to ask for $10 billion next year, not $5 billion."