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Pakistan offers to host OIC meeting on Afghanistan as crisis looms

By Pakistan Forward and AFP

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Women wait in a queue during a World Food Programme cash distribution in Kabul on November 29. [Hector Retamal/AFP]

Pakistan has offered to host a summit of foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) next month to address the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Monday (November 29).

Pakistan offered to host the summit in Islamabad on December 17, Qureshi announced on Twitter.

The United Nations (UN) repeatedly has warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and Qureshi said the OIC "must step in to help our Afghan brethren".

"We should step up our collective efforts to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people," he said in a statement.

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Women wait in line during a World Food Programme food distribution in Kabul on November 6. [Hector Retamal/AFP]

The Pakistani offer comes after a request from Saudi Arabia, which currently chairs the 57-member group.

It will likely be the biggest international gathering on Afghanistan since the fall of the previous government.

Qureshi earlier on November 11 warned that Afghanistan is "at the brink of economic collapse" and that the international community must urgently resume funding and provide humanitarian assistance.

It was "imperative for the international community to buttress provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis", Qureshi said at a meeting of US, Chinese, Russian and other diplomats in Islamabad.

That included enabling Afghanistan to access funds frozen by Western donors since the fall of the Afghan government in August, he added.

Resuming the flow of funding "will dovetail into our efforts to regenerate economic activities and move the Afghan economy towards stability and sustainability", Qureshi said.

Immense needs

The international community has been wary of funding aid efforts through the new government.

International organisations have continued to deliver aid to Afghans.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) last week began deliveries of food to Afghanistan from Tajikistan, providing 2,500 tonnes of wheat flour procured from the region.

The WFP on Monday also distributed 7,000 AFN ($74) in cash each to about 3,000 families in the Afghan capital severely hit by the country's growing humanitarian crisis.

The needs of Afghans remain immense, however.

"To abandon the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake -- a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences," Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general's special representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said November 17.

With the winter approaching, up to 23 million Afghans will be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity, she said.

Moreover, although the risk of famine was once restricted to rural areas, 10 out of 11 of Afghanistan's most densely populated urban areas are now expected to reach emergency levels of food insecurity, she added.

On November 23, the UN said its flash appeal for more than $500 million to support the humanitarian response in Afghanistan until the end of the year was now fully funded.

The main donors were the United States, European countries and Japan, who helped reach the total funding goal of $606 million.

The funds are directed towards helping the 11 million most deprived people in Afghanistan.

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