The United Nations refugee agency on Friday called on Afghanistan’s neighbors to keep their borders open to avert a humanitarian disaster as the Taliban continue the offensive to retake the country.
“An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed,” a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told a briefing in Geneva.
A spokesperson for the World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, said food shortages in the war-torn country are “quite dire” and worsening, adding that the situation had all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Thousands of displaced people have been arriving in Kabul, seeing the capital as their last safe refuge, according to the BBC.
About 72,000 children are among those fleeing to the capital in recent days, the outlet reported, citing Save the Children.
On Friday, the insurgents took over three additional provincial capitals as they come perilously close to Kabul.
The Taliban advance comes as American and other foreign troops withdraw after 20 years of military operations. More than 1,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in the last month alone, the BBC reported.
Sahraa Karimi, an Afghan filmmaker in Kabul, told the news outlet it felt like the world had turned its back on the country and she feared a return to “dark times,” when women were forced to wear all-covering burkas, education was restricted for girls over 10 and brutal punishments, including public executions, were rampant.
“I am in danger, [but] I don’t anymore think about myself,” Karimi told the BBC. “I think about our country … I think about our generation: that we did a lot to bring these changes. I think about young girls … there are thousands of beautiful, young talented women in this country.”
Asadullah, a 35-year-old street vendor who fled northern Kunduz province after the Taliban set fire to his home, told the BBC he has no money to buy bread or medicine for his kid.
“All of our home and belongings caught fire, so we came to Kabul and pray to God to help us,” he said.
Pashtana Durrani, who heads an education NGO that works with Afghan girls, said she was afraid for her life because of her vocal role in advocating for women’s education.
“The girls who we work with have already fled,” she told the BBC. “I don’t know where the students are and I’m personally scared about their life. What if they’re married to a Taliban fighter? What will their life be like?”
The capture of the second-biggest city of Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west are devastating setbacks for the government as the deadly Taliban insurgency turns into a rout of government forces.
“The city looks like a front line, a ghost town,” provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi told Reuters by telephone from Herat, a city of about 600,000 people near the border with Iran.
“Families have either left or are hiding in their homes,” Hashimi said.
With Post wires