The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator on Sunday said Afghanistan’s economy is now in a “free fall” that could pull the entire population with it if the international community doesn’t act decisively and with compassion.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths painted a grim picture of 23 million people facing hunger in the Taliban controlled country, in a virtual speech during the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad, Pakistan.
As winter is currently underway, health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children. Some 70% of teachers are not getting paid and millions of children – Afghanistan’s future – are out of school.
After the international community froze its aid, the value of the Afghani currency is plummeting, trade is wrecked by lack of confidence in the financial sector, and the space for borrowing and investment has constricted dramatically.
“The need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system is now urgent – not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond,” Griffiths said.
The UN official welcomed the decision by the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to transfer US$280 million by the end of December to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
“This step should be followed by reprogramming of the whole fund to support the Afghan people this winter,” he said.
“Families simply do not have the cash for everyday transactions, while prices for key commodities continue to rise.”
The cost of wheat and fuel are up by around 40% and food now accounts for more than 80% of the average household expenditure.
And as international development support has frozen up, basic social services that all Afghans depend on are collapsing.
Mr. Griffiths cautioned that by the middle of next year, universal poverty – reaching 97% of the population – could be “the next grim milestone”.
“Within a year, 30% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product could be lost altogether, while male unemployment may double to 29%,” he spelled out.
The OIC met to express their willingness to help avert disaster and contribute to the humanitarian endeavour.
“The United Nations stands firmly with you, and in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan,” said the Relief Coordinator, explaining that next year, the UN would seek its largest-ever funding appeal of US$4.5 billion “to help the most vulnerable in Afghanistan”.
Afghanistan will not get through the winter on emergency aid alone, the UN official flagged, stressing the need for “flexible donor funding” that can be used to ensure salaries for public sector workers and support to basic services, such as health, education, electricity and livelihood.
Noting that the meeting was being held at “a moment of exceptional gravity for the people of Afghanistan”, the senior UN official pointed out that “we have the advantage of being forewarned of the fate that awaits them if we do not act”. (Source: UN News)