Germany’s new foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, pledged on Thursday to work with international partners to help avert in Afghanistan what she called “the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time”.

Outlining an “action plan” two weeks after taking office, Baerbock said Berlin sought to assure that outside aid reached the neediest Afghans and step up the evacuation of those most threatened under the Taliban, especially women and girls.

“Before our eyes, Afghanistan is heading into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time,” Baerbock told reporters.

“Major sectors of the economy have collapsed, many people are starving. One can hardly bear it when one reads that families in their desperation are selling their daughters to buy food.”

She said 24 million Afghans were estimated to need assistance to survive this winter.

“We cannot allow hundreds of thousands of children to die because we don t want to take action,” Baerbock said.

Berlin would “seek ways with our international partners so that humanitarian aid arrives in the country and bring those particularly in need of protection out of the country”.