The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for $24 million to prepare for the potential outflow of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees into neighboring countries in the coming months.

The anticipated exodus of refugees following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August has not happened. Although internal displacement is rife, the U.N. refugee agency reports just over 30,000 people have fled across borders in search of international protection since January.

However, the International Red Cross Federation say it expects refugee numbers to surge as humanitarian and economic conditions in Afghanistan worsen.

Red Cross spokeswoman Nathalie Perroud told VOA Afghanistan is in the grips of multiple complex emergencies. She said millions of people are suffering from severe drought, food and water shortages, internal displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a shattered economy. A major problem, she said is access to banking services.

“We have reports of people really queuing very, very long hours to just access cash flow. And the maximum that they can withdraw is $200 per week. So that means that people are really out of cash and that their basic needs may not be met in the immediate future,” said Perroud.

The Red Cross reports 18 million people lack basic services and urgently need humanitarian aid to survive. It warns Afghanistan’s looming harsh winter threatens greater misery and hardship.

Perroud said this grim situation is likely to send tens of thousands of Afghans fleeing into neighboring countries in the coming months. She said the Red Cross is making preparations to provide them with the protection and humanitarian assistance they need.

“So, the current situation in Afghanistan is quite alarming and that is why we are getting ready for even the worst scenario. The displacement or refugee situation may not happen, but we would rather be prepared now rather than wait for this massive population of movement to happen and not know how to deal with it,” said Perroud.

The Red Cross says it requires $24 million to provide aid and protection to about 160,000 Afghan refugees for an initial 12-month period. It says it will focus most of its efforts on Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, but adds preparations could be extended to other countries of asylum in Central Asia.

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