UN, US lawmakers back efforts to prevent Afghanistan’s economic collapse
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations joined Pakistan on Sunday in calling on the world to help prevent Afghanistan’s economic collapse, as 39 U.S. lawmakers also backed the call.
In a message to the 17th Extraordinary Session of OIC Foreign Ministers, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths reminded the world that “the time has come” to save Afghanistan from a total collapse.
“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.
In Washington, 30 lawmakers signed a letter to the U.S. Secretaries of State and Treasury on Saturday, asking them to help rebuild Afghanistan’s failing economy and unfreeze the country’s assets.
The letter includes four proposals: release frozen Afghan assets of more than $ 9 billion to an appropriate United Nations agency, expand exemptions from sanctions for international organizations dealing with Afghanistan, help multilateral organizations pay the salaries of workers and enable international financial institutions to “inject the necessary economic capital into Afghanistan to avoid economic collapse.”
In his virtual message, Griffiths warned that the Afghan economy was in “free fall” and that if decisive and compassionate action was not taken immediately, it could “drag the whole population with it”.
The message paints a grim picture of the current situation in Afghanistan: 23 million people face hunger; malnourished children overflow into health facilities; 70 percent of teachers working without pay; and millions of out-of-school students.
Mr Griffiths warned that the fall in the value of the Afghan currency, lack of confidence in the financial sector, steadily declining trade and shrinking borrowing and investment space had further complicated the situation.
The UN official welcomed the decision of the World Bank Trust Fund for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan to transfer $ 280 million by the end of December to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF ) and the World Food Program (WFP).
“This step should be followed by a reprogramming of the entire fund to support the Afghan people this winter,” he said. “Families simply don’t have the cash for day-to-day transactions, while the prices of key commodities continue to rise. “
In Washington, Pakistani Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan also urged the international community to understand the gravity of the situation.
“We are deeply concerned at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan which threatens millions of Afghans with hunger, disease and death,” he said.
He said Pakistan convened the OIC conference to demonstrate the solidarity of the Islamic world with the Afghan people and to “mobilize international support for a coordinated global response to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Afghanistan” .
At the UN, Griffiths warned that within a year, “30 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product could be lost, while male unemployment could double to 29 percent. He said that in 2022, the UN would launch its largest ever fundraising appeal of $ 4.5 billion “to help the most vulnerable in Afghanistan.”
The plan is a stopgap measure for more than 21 million people who need life-saving assistance and should be funded “as a matter of priority,” he said.
Posted in Dawn, December 20, 2021