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Afghanistan economy in free fall, needs decisive action: UN official

Photo: @UNReliefChief

Islamabad, Dec 19 (MNN) UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths warned on Sunday that Afghanistan’s economy is in a “free fall”, and if decisive and compassionate action is not taken immediately it may pull the entire population with it.

Griffiths pointed out that 23 million people faced hunger in Afghanistan and the malnourished children were overflowing in health facilities.

As much as 70 per cent of teachers were working without salaries while millions of students are out of school, he said while speaking virtually at the 17th emergency meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers here.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said that the crisis situation had arisen as the value of Afghan currency plummeted and a lack of confidence in the financial sector destroyed trade to restrict the space for borrowing and investment.

“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,” he said.

The UN official welcomed the decision by the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to transfer 280 million dollars by the end of December to the UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme.

“This step should be followed by reprogramming of the whole fund to support the Afghan people this winter,” he said.

He said that the cost of wheat and fuel are up by around 40 per cent and food ate up more than 80 per cent of an average household expenditure in Afghanistan.

Pointing out that basic social services that all Afghans depend on are collapsing as international development support had frozen, Griffiths cautioned that by the middle of 2022, universal poverty – reaching 97 per cent of the population – could be “the next grim milestone”.

“Within a year, 30 per cent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product could be lost altogether, while male unemployment may double to 29 per cent”, the UN official warned.

“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 4.5 billion dollars “to help the most vulnerable in Afghanistan”.

The plan is a stopgap measure for over 21 million people who need lifesaving assistance and must be funded as “a matter of priority”.

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