The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator told a special meeting that Afghanistan’s economy is in “free fall” and if decisive and compassionate action is not taken immediately, it may “pull the entire population with it”.
Speaking virtually to the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad, Pakistan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said that 23 million people facing hunger in Afghanistan, while malnourished children are overflowing in health facilities, 70 per cent of teachers are working without salaries, and millions of students are out of school in the country. All of these is happening as the value of the Afghani currency plummets, a lack of confidence in the financial sector destroys trade and the space for borrowing and investment dramatically constricts. “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.
Martin Griffiths welcomed the decision by the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to transfer $280 million by the end of December to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The cost of wheat and fuel are up by around 40 per cent and food now accounts for more than 80 per cent of the average household expenditure. With the international development support freezing, basic social services are collapsing. Griffiths cautioned that by the middle of next year, 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,” he said.
Afghanistan will not get through the winter on emergency aid alone, the UN official flagged, stressing the need for “flexible donor funding” that can be used to ensure salaries for public sector workers and support to basic services, such as health, education, electricity and livelihood. The United Nations would seek its largest-ever funding appeal of $4.5 billion “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,” said Martin Griffiths.