UNITED NATIONS -- United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres Tuesday (August 31) warned of a looming "humanitarian catastrophe" in Afghanistan as he urged countries to provide emergency funding in the wake of the Taliban's takeover of the country.
Guterres expressed his "grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country," adding that basic services threatened to collapse "completely."
"Now more than ever, Afghan children, women and men need the support and solidarity of the international community," he said in a statement, as he pleaded for financial support from nations.
"I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need. I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding," the secretary-general said.
Guterres announced that the UN would release details of a flash appeal for Afghanistan next week.
The information will detail the "most immediate humanitarian needs and funding requirements" needed over the next four months, he said.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Martin Griffiths will co-ordinate "the entire UN system" in preparation of the appeal, Guterres added.
Almost half -- 18 million people -- of the Afghan population need urgent humanitarian assistance to survive, he said.
"One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year.
"People are losing access to basic goods and services every day. A humanitarian catastrophe looms," said Guterres.
Severe drought and coming harsh winter conditions meant extra food, shelter and health supplies "must be urgently fast-tracked" to Afghanistan, he added.
"I call on all parties to facilitate safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for life-saving and life-sustaining supplies, as well as for all humanitarian workers -- men and women," he said.
The commitment of humanitarian agencies to stay in Afghanistan and deliver aid "will not waver", said Guterres.
Female journalists quit
Meanwhile, female journalists are being forced to abandon their jobs in another consequence of the Taliban's takeover.
The number of female journalists working in Kabul has dwindled to below 100 since the Taliban took power, compared with 700 before, a media watchdog said Wednesday.
The figures amount to "a quasi-disappearance of women journalists in the capital", Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF or Reporters Without Borders) said.
As Taliban forces took over Kabul, female journalists were increasingly told to stay home, harassed, prevented from going on reporting assignments, or even beaten, said RSF.
Despite assurances by the Taliban that they would respect press freedom and allow female journalists to work, RSF said, "A new media landscape is emerging without them."
The organisation called on Afghanistan's new rulers to guarantee the freedom and safety of women working in journalism.
"It is essential that female journalists be able to return to work without being bothered, which is their most fundamental right," RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.
Legacy of violence
Violence targeting female journalists has long cast a dark shadow on Afghan life.
In the months before the fall of Kabul on August 15, terrorists killed a number of female journalists nationwide.
In March, gunmen killed three female employees of Enikass Radio in Jalalabad. Last December, gunmen killed Rahmatullah Nekzad in Ghazni province and Malalai Maiwand in Nangarhar province.