Sunday, January 23, 2022

UN chief: ‘race against time’ to save Afghan economy

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that the United Nations is “in a race against time” to prevent millions of Afghans from falling into dire economic and humanitarian crisis.

“Livelihoods have been lost across the country. More than half of Afghanistan’s population now depends on life-saving aid,” Guterres told reporters at the UN headquarters. “Without the more concerted effort of the international community, almost every man, woman and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty.”

He said the situation has become so dire that parents have sold their children to feed their children, and health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children.

Guterres’s call comes two days after the United Nations launched its biggest humanitarian appeal this year, raising more than $5 billion in aid to 28 million people in Afghanistan and five neighboring countries.

Last year, the United Nations and its partner agencies reached out to more than 18 million people across the country.

An Afghan man looks at currency notes displayed at a currency exchange shop in Kabul on December 20, 2021.

economic collapse

The secretary-general said the biggest driver of the current crisis is the free fall of Afghanistan’s economy, which he warned should not be allowed to collapse.

“For our part, the United Nations is taking steps to inject cash into the economy through constructive authorization arrangements, but this is a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Guterres said the country’s central bank should be protected and assisted, and a way should be found for a conditional release of Afghan foreign exchange reserves.

“Without constructive, flexible and constructive engagement by the international community, Afghanistan’s economic situation will only worsen,” he warned.

Over the past two decades, Afghanistan’s economy has relied heavily on foreign aid to survive. About 75% of the former government’s budget was donor-funded, as was 40% of its GDP.

International donors have urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government and respect women’s rights as a condition of releasing more aid, which the group has not done.

Since the Taliban came to power in August 2021, the suspension of most international aid has contributed to the breakdown of many basic services, including electricity, health services and education. Inflation is rampant, and the price of ordinary goods is out of reach for most Afghans.

The United Nations has been sounding the alarm for several months, saying there is a need for a mechanism for US dollars from outside Afghanistan to be exchanged for Afghans, the local currency, inside the country.

Responding to a question, the UN chief said that the United States has a very important role in bolstering Afghanistan’s economy because most of the global financial system operates in US dollars, and because Washington has invested billions of Afghans to keep them out. The property has been frozen. from the hands of the Taliban.

The Taliban have repeatedly called for the lifting of international sanctions and access to the assets of Afghanistan’s Central Bank.

Last month, World Bank donors agreed to release $280 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. The bank stopped payments after the Taliban takeover. The funds were distributed to UNICEF and the World Food Program. Guterres urged donors to provide the remaining $1.2 billion to help Afghans survive the winter.

The Secretary-General also reiterated his call for the Taliban to fulfill its promises to respect the rights of women and girls. His persecution of women during his previous hold on power in Afghanistan is one of the main reasons donors are reluctant to allow him access to funds.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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