The United Nations on Wednesday appealed for extra funds from international donors for Afghanistan amid a relentless civil war and severe drought which has affected millions of people.
The UN's consolidated appeal for Afghanistan next year totals 229 million dollars for some 332 projects including mine clearing, drought relief, refugee assistance, drug control and human rights awareness.
UN officials said the drought, the worst in at least 30 years, and the plight of women under the puritanical regime of the Taliban Islamic militia, were top priorities.
"With some of the worst social indicators in the world, the plight of Afghans and in particular Afghan women, is a major humanitarian concern," acting UN Coordinator for Afghanistan Mike Sackett said in a statement.
"The theme of this year's global common appeal is 'women and war' (and) it is hard to think of one more relevant to Afghanistan."
UN officials have warned that up to a million Afghans could starve by early next year unless urgent relief arrives to mitigate the affects of the drought, which has halved cereal production throughout the country.
Some 200,000 people are displaced inside the country due to the drought and the civil war between the Taliban and opposition forces, while another 30,000 have fled to Pakistan since the start of September.
Pakistan has restricted new refugee arrivals from its western neighbor, saying it can no longer afford to look after them without more international assistance.
"In short, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is poised for a sharp downwards spiral that is expected to continue until at least next summer," Sackett said.
The 2001 appeal for Afghanistan is only slightly more than last year's amid signs of donor fatigue and pressing aid concerns in other countries.
Afghanistan is the world's most mined country but the UN's mine clearing operations were scaled back recently due to a lack of funds.
The 2.6 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan form the largest refugee population in the world but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it is struggling to meet the needs of the new arrivals since December.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed Tuesday on behalf of all UN agencies for 2.26 billion dollars next year in humanitarian aid for 35 million people.
"That is less than the world spends on military purposes in a single day," he said -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
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