Monday, January 17, 2022

Millions of Afghans are ‘on the verge of death’, UN chief warns

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The head of the United Nations warned on Thursday that millions of Afghans are “on the brink of death”, calling on the international community to fund a $5 billion UN humanitarian appeal, release Afghanistan’s frozen assets and restart its banking system to stave off an economic and social collapse.

Secretary General António Guterres told reporters that “low temperatures and frozen assets are a lethal combination for the people of Afghanistan” and that “rules and conditions that prevent money from being used to save lives and the economy must be suspended in this emergency.” ”

Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy was already faltering when the Taliban seized power in mid-August amid a chaotic US and NATO troop withdrawal 20 years later. The international community froze Afghanistan’s assets abroad and withdrew economic support, unwilling to work with the Taliban, given their brutal record during their rule in 1996-2001 and their refusal to educate girls and allow women to work.

The UN says 8.7 million Afghans are on the verge of starvation, and Guterres said it is critical to quickly inject liquidity into the Afghan economy “and avoid a collapse that will lead to misery, hunger and misery for millions.”

It is “absolutely necessary” to avoid a breakdown, he stressed, “because in the current situation the Afghans are on the brink of death.”

CONTEXT: Historical timeline of Afghanistan

The Secretary General said the United States has a “very important role to play because most of the world’s financial system runs in dollars” and the United States has frozen $7 billion in Afghan foreign exchange reserves, mostly held in the US.

UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths and Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, will hold a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Friday.

Guterres said one of the reasons for the meeting is to try to create “mechanisms to effectively inject funds into the Afghan economy and at the same time create the conditions for the Afghan financial system to work locally.” currency.”

The UN chief said international funding should be allowed to pay the salaries of doctors, sanitation workers, electrical engineers and other government employees, and to help Afghan institutions provide medical, educational and other key services.

Last month, the World Bank transferred $280 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund it manages to the United Nations Children’s Agency, UNICEF and the World Food Program for their operations in the country, Guterres said.

“I hope that the remaining resources — more than $1.2 billion — become available to help the Afghan people get through the winter,” he said.

Calling on the international community to stand by the Afghan people, Guterres said he is making an equally strong appeal to Taliban leaders to “recognize and protect basic human rights, and in particular the rights of women and girls,” and to build state institutions. in which all Afghans feel represented.

“Throughout Afghanistan, women and girls are in short supply in offices and classrooms.” Guterres said. “No country can prosper by denying rights to half of its population.”

Nation World News Desk
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