Asia World

Thu 13 January 2022:

The UN Secretary-General has warned that millions of Afghans are on the verge of starvation, urging the international community to fund the UN’s $5 billion humanitarian appeal, release Afghanistan’s frozen assets, and restart its banking system in order to avert economic and social collapse.

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

Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy was already in disarray when the Taliban took power in mid-August, amid the chaotic withdrawal of US and NATO troops after 20 years.

The UN has said 8.7 million Afghans are on the brink of starvation and Guterres said it was critical to rapidly inject liquidity into the Afghan economy “and avoid a meltdown that would lead to poverty, hunger and destitution for millions”.

It’s “absolutely essential” to avoid a breakdown, he stressed, “because with the present situation you have Afghans on the verge of death.”

According to the secretary-general, the US has “a very important role to play because the most of the financial system in the world operates in dollars,” and the US has frozen $7 billion in Afghan foreign reserves, the majority of which are held in the US.

Martin Griffiths, UN humanitarian chief, and Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, are scheduled to meet virtually with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday.

One reason for the meeting, according to Guterres, is to try to create “mechanisms that allow for an effective injection of funds into the Afghan economy and, at the same time, create the conditions for the Afghan financial system to be able to operate in the local currency.”

According to the UN Secretary-General, international funding should be allowed to pay the salaries of doctors, sanitation workers, electrical engineers, and other civil servants, as well as to assist Afghan institutions in providing healthcare, education, and other critical services.

According to Guterres, the World Bank transferred $280 million from an Afghanistan reconstruction trust fund it manages to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, and the World Food Program for their operations in the country last month.

“I hope the remaining resources – more than $1.2bn – will become available to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter,” he said.

While urging the international community to assist the Afghan people, Guterres also urged Taliban leaders to “recognize and protect fundamental human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls,” as well as to build government institutions in which all Afghans feel represented.

“Across Afghanistan, women and girls are missing from offices and classrooms,” Guterres said. “No country can thrive while denying the rights of half of its population.”






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