A major humanitarian crisis is looming in Afghanistan, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, warned again on Friday, amid uncertainty about the situation for vulnerable Afghans seeking shelter across the country's borders. To address the crisis, the UN announced that a major fundraising conference will take place in Geneva on September 13.
"The conference will advocate for a swift scale-up in funding so the lifesaving humanitarian operation can continue, and appeal for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need", said a statement issued on Friday by the UN Spokesperson.
Stephane Dujarric said that the UN remains committed to delivering humanitarian assistance to millions of people in need across Afghanistan.
"Development gains must also be protected to link the humanitarian response with the medium and long-term stability of Afghanistan. The rights, safety and wellbeing of women and girls are an essential part of this link."
The "reality is, the displacement crisis is inside Afghanistan", with more than 600,000 Afghans displaced this year, "80 per cent of which are women and children", said UNHCR spokesperson, Babar Baloch, who was speaking from Pakistan earlier on Friday.
In an appeal to the world not to turn away its attention or focus from Afghans and Afghanistan, he warned that we cannot allow this "to become a humanitarian catastrophe".
Describing the situation at the country's borders with Pakistan, Baloch said UNHCR had not seen such a "large refugee influx", crossing over into Pakistan and Iran before.
The explanation for this is unclear: "It could be that some of those people may not think they have the right documents, others may not be so comfortable in terms of confronting armed guards at the borders", he said.
"Afghans are still able to come through Pakistan", he explained, "but it is very regulated," and you must show documents such as your ID card, passport or visa.
Baloch's appeal follows the UNHCR's repeated call on Tuesday for Afghanistan's neighbouring states to keep their borders open to those fleeing.
States must provide urgent protection to Afghan journalists and media workers, who fear for their lives and are seeking safety abroad, UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Friday.
The safety of women is of particular concern as they are facing heightened risks since the Taliban's political takeover of Afghanistan," they added, as "they may be targeted for working in the media or simply being a woman in public life".
Reminding the Human Rights Council of the various resolutions on the safety of journalists adopted in recent years, the experts called for expedited visas, assistance with evacuation, and open borders for those who wish to leave Afghanistan.
(With ANI inputs)