Imran Khan backs Gordon Brown’s call to help the starving in Afghanistan

Former British PM has helped to launch a Save the Children campaign to raise money to tackle the humanitarian crisis

Shaida, nine months old, is being treated for malnutrition by Save the Children's mobile health team in Balkh province, Afghanistan. Photo: Save The Children

Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, has backed a call from former UK leader Gordon Brown asking the international community to find billions of pounds for a UN emergency appeal to prevent starvation in Afghanistan.

More than 5,000 people have signed a Save The Children online petition, launched on Monday, urging the UK government to lead the relief efforts and convene an emergency conference.

Mr Khan’s intervention coincides with the launch of a social media campaign, #SaveAfghanLives, amid widespread concern about the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the country.

An estimated five million children and four million adults are now suffering from acute malnutrition and 23 million people will face severe famine in the coming months unless the aid for which the UN is appealing arrives within days.

Mr Khan’s tweet in support of #SaveAfghanLives, which is trending in Pakistan, says: “I will add my voice also and want people to join an international initiative to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, putting at risk of starvation millions of Afghans, especially children.”

Mr Brown believes the government should convene an emergency aid conference of the 40 nations in the US-led coalition whose departure, on top of harvest failure and Covid-19, has left Afghanistan facing catastrophe.

The former prime minister wrote to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss earlier this month with his proposal for the urgent humanitarian aid conference, but said he had not had a reply.

Mr Brown said no one who had seen the reports coming out of Afghanistan could fail to be moved by the individual tragedies befalling so many.

He pressed the government to help secure more than £3 billion, which the United Nations says is desperately needed to prevent famine affecting millions of people.

“Of the 40 countries who joined the American-led coalition to fight the Afghan war, all should now contribute to the peace. There is not a moment to lose,” said Mr Brown.

“My friend Malala, the Pakistan girl who was shot at by the Taliban for supporting girls' education and won the Nobel Prize, has told me she will be one of the first to sign the petition.”

Imran Khan has urged people to back the humanitarian initiative. Reuters

On Monday, Malala's father, education activist Ziauddin Yousafzai, told The National that the Taliban are “playing with the world to get legitimacy” and should not be trusted.

Mr Brown said: “The TV pictures coming out of Afghanistan are harrowing and heartbreaking.

“But you no longer just have to sit and watch them and not know how to help.

“Together we can show the UK government that we the people understand that not a moment is to be lost if lives are to be saved.”

Kirsty McNeill, executive director of policy, advocacy and campaigns at Save the Children UK, said: “Time is running out to get Afghan children the urgent support they desperately need.

“Families are doing everything they can just to survive, even making the impossible decision of giving up their own babies because they can’t afford to feed their other children.

“The number of malnourished children visiting our mobile health clinics in Afghanistan has more than doubled since last August, with some dying before they can even reach the hospital.”

Updated: January 25, 2022, 9:24 AM