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Up to 7.5 million Afghans will need outside aid if crisis worsens, UN reports

Up to 7.5 million Afghans will need outside aid if crisis worsens, UN reports

United Nations relief officials today said that UN agencies were planning to seek emergency funds to help stem a worsening crisis in Afghanistan, where millions of people depend on aid to survive.

"In view of the deteriorating situation inside Afghanistan, financial support will be needed for up to 7.5 million Afghans," Stephanie Bunker, a spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, told reporters in Islamabad today. She said UN agencies were preparing a new appeal for funds to present to donors at a meeting of the Afghan Support Group convening tomorrow in Berlin.

Ms. Bunker warned of a coming mass exodus of Afghans fleeing their homes in a country already blighted by extensive displacement. "While over one million refugees may seek safety in neighboring countries, the United Nations fears that the numbers of internally displaced persons inside Afghanistan could go from the current 1.1 million to 2.2 million," she said, adding that some 4 million Afghans who remained in their homes would also require assistance.

Pointing to the reasons behind the displacement, Ms. Bunker cited "reports of Taliban officials attempting to recruit young people for military purposes" in the western provinces. She added that UN staff serving the camps for internally displaced persons had limited radio communication only from one office "which is being monitored by a Taliban representative."

Painting a grim picture of the harsh conditions prevailing in the country, Ms. Bunker said the Afghan people faced the prospect of starvation. "For the Afghan population, as humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan dwindles, their grip on survival is tragically slipping," she said. "This recent crisis is the latest in a long series of catastrophes to face the country - the war, repressive regimes, the drought - which have greatly eroded the population's ability to cope."

With acute malnutrition looming, Ms. Bunker stressed the need for food assistance to the country, in addition to health services, water and sanitation, shelter and other supplies.