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UN Warns A 'Far Greater' Crisis Looms In Afghanistan For Those Left Behind

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United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (file photo)

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has issued a stark warning that as thousands of people flee Afghanistan, "a far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning" for the war-torn country and its 39 million people following the Taliban's seizure of power.

In a statement on August 30, Grandi reiterated a call for borders to remain open and for more countries to share "this humanitarian responsibility," with Iran and Pakistan already hosting 2.2 million registered Afghan refugees -- nearly 90 percent of the total.

The UNHCR, said last week that up to 500,000 Afghans could flee by the end of the year.

The U.S.-led airlifts of thousands of foreigners and Afghans out of Kabul airport since the Taliban took control of the capital “will end in a matter of days, and the tragedy that has unfolded will no longer be as visible,” Grandi said.

“But it will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans. We must not turn away,” he added.

Grandi made the plea on the eve of an EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss the Afghan crisis.

According to a draft statement seen by Reuters, the ministers will say that “the EU and its member states stand determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past, by preparing a coordinated and orderly response.”

They will also repeat the bloc's pledge to give more money for Afghanistan and neighboring countries “to ensure that those in need receive adequate protection primarily in the region.”

EU governments are eager to avoid a repeat of the massive influx of migrants in 2015 that caught the bloc unprepared and sowed divisions among them.

There has been growing concerns about the fate of Afghanistan’s population since the takeover of the country by the hard-line Islamist Taliban group more than two weeks ago.

On August 29, the UN children’s agency, UNESCO, warned that Afghan children are “at greater risk than ever.”

“We know some partners are considering cutting aid to Afghanistan. This is very concerning and poses some major questions,” it said in a statement.

“If the current trend continues, UNICEF predicts that one million children under 5 in Afghanistan will suffer from severe acute malnutrition -- a life-threatening condition. Meanwhile, over 4 million children, including 2.2 million girls, are out of school. Around 300,000 children have been forced out of their homes,” the statement said.

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