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Afghanistan's Neighbors Urged To Keep Borders Open As ‘Humanitarian Disaster’ Looms

Internally displaced Afghans who fled from Kunduz, Takhar, and Baghlan provinces due to battles between the Taliban and Afghan security forces walk past temporary tents at the Sara-e Shamali camp in Kabul on August 11.

The United Nations refugee agency is calling on Afghanistan's neighbors to keep borders open as the Taliban continues its lightning offensives across the country.

"We are on the [brink] of a humanitarian disaster," UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told a briefing in Geneva on August 13, as thousands of men, women, and children were fleeing for safety from advancing Taliban militants.

"An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed," she added.

Afghanistan borders Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It also shares a tiny 75-kilometer boundary with China.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme warned that food supplies for about a third of the Afghan population were no longer assured.

Two million children alone are in need of urgent aid, said the spokesman, Tomson Phiri, adding: "We fear the worst is yet to come."

Phiri said $200 million would be needed by the end of the year help stave off hunger.

Some 390,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year, according to UN estimates, but the actual number is likely to be much higher.

Earlier on August 13, a leading international aid organization said it was “bracing ourselves for a major humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan.

"Terrified families have been fleeing into Kabul in the past days. Camps are overcrowded and children are sleeping out in the open. Families are fighting over food," said Tracey Van Heerden, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s acting country director in Afghanistan.

The escalating conflict also makes the work of aid organizations more difficult and dangerous, Van Heerden said.

"Eighty percent of our projects are affected by the ongoing conflict, impacting the delivery of critical aid to over 900,000 Afghans."

Earlier this week, France, Germany, and other European countries announced a suspension of deportations to Afghanistan due to the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa
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