Geneva, Switzerland

UN agencies on Tuesday asked donors for $US4.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan in 2022, calling the funds an "essential stop gap" to ensure the country's future after a period of turmoil marked by the Taliban's seizure of power and a hasty US exit. 

The United Nations says the appeal, which amounts to nearly a quarter of the country's GDP, is the largest ever sought for a single country and is triple the figure it received in 2021 when the US-backed government collapsed.

US Afghanistan aid

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Alessandra Vellucci, director of the United Nations Information Service and Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator attend the launch of 2022 humanitarian response plans for Afghanistan and the region in Geneva, Switzerland on 10th January. PICTURE: Reuters/Denis Balibouse 

"This is a stop gap, an absolutely essential stop gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

"Without this being funded there won't be a future, we need this to be done otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering." 

The abrupt withdrawal of foreign aid last year following the Taliban victory in August left Afghanistan's fragile economy on the brink of collapse, with food prices rising rapidly and causing widespread hunger. 

Western sanctions aimed at the Taliban also prevented the passage of basic supplies of food and medicine, although this has since eased after exemptions were passed by the UN Security Council and Washington in December.

Griffiths, who has been meeting with Taliban officials, said the humanitarian plan had been "carefully calibrated" so that aid will go directly to people in need and not to authorities.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that improved security presented an opportunity to entice millions of people displaced by the long conflict back home, adding that since the Taliban seized power, 170,000 had returned already.

"The conflict between the Taliban and the previous government is over and that has opened up some space of security which I think we need to take advantage of," Grandi said.

"But to do that we need those resources that are part of this appeal."

Meanwhile, the Biden administration said it plans to donate an extra $US308 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, bringing total US aid for the impoverished country and Afghan refugees in the region to nearly $US782 million since October, the White House said on Tuesday.

The Unites States is also providing one million additional coronavirus vaccine doses to Afghanistan, bringing the total to 4.3 million doses, the White House added.

The assistance from the United States Agency for International Development will be channelled through independent humanitarian organisations to provide shelter, health care, winterization assistance, emergency food aid, water, sanitation and hygiene services, the government said.

The United Nations says nearly 23 million people – about 55 per cent of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, with nearly nine million at risk of famine as winter takes hold.

Afghanistan's economic crisis accelerated after the Taliban seized power in August, as the former Western-backed government collapsed and the last US troops withdrew.

Last month, the United States formally exempted US and UN officials doing permitted business with the Taliban from US sanctions to try to maintain the flow of aid to Afghanistan as it sinks deeper into a humanitarian crisis.