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Afghanistan: UN refugee chief warns of 'greater suffering'

The world should expect more suffering, instability and displacement in Afghanistan if additional support is not provided to the country, the head of the UN agency for refugees has said.

Afghans cross into Pakistan on the border town of Charman, Pakistan

Even before the Taliban took over, around half of the population required humanitarian aid

The United Nations called for urgent and sustained support from the international community, as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan continues.

"The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains desperate," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement after a three-day visit to the South Asian nation.

He also warned of global implications if Afghans' needs for support are not met.

"If public services and the economy collapse, we will see even greater suffering, instability, and displacement both within and outside the country," he said. "The international community must therefore engage with Afghanistan – and quickly – in order to prevent a much bigger humanitarian crisis that will have not only regional but global implications."

Watch video 01:37

Afghanistan: Taliban urge restart of aid deliveries

Millions requiring humanitarian aid

Even before the Taliban took power after the departure of US forces last month, more than 18 million Afghans, or about half the population, required aid, Grandi said.

More than 3.5 million Afghans had also been displaced due to drought and ongoing violence. Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international aid conference that poverty and hunger have spiraled since the Taliban takeover and that Afghans are facing "perhaps their most perilous hour."

Aid groups still, however, face challenges in helping Afghanistan without propping up Taliban leaders. With the Afghan government cut off from the international banking system, aid groups both inside Afghanistan and abroad have said they are struggling to get emergency relief, basic services and funds to the population.

Watch video 02:02

One month of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Fears of supporting the Taliban government

During a UN appeal earlier this week, donor countries pledged over $1 billion (€847 million) in aid, but attempts to deprive the Taliban government of funding resources has made it difficult to deliver that aid.

"The international community will have to balance pragmatism, the need to keep Afghanistan stable and viable, and the political considerations that would mean supporting a government led by the Taliban," Grandi told AP earlier this week.

"It's urgent. This is not one of those developmental issues that one can discuss for five years before coming to a conclusion, but it will require compromises on the part of everybody,'' he said. "I think that the international community will have to adapt some of its more stringent rules about working with governments ... and the Taliban will have to make compromises as well."

lc/sms (Reuters, AP)