Afghanistan's economic collapse is happening 'before our eyes': UN

WION Web Team
Kabul, AfghanistanUpdated: Dec 10, 2021, 03:43 PM IST
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The moves come amid mounting pressure in Congress for the Biden administration to use the frozen Afghan reserves to address the dire economic crisis facing Afghanistan. Photograph:(AFP)

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Four million children are out of school and nine million more will be soon, he said, because 70 per cent of teachers have not been paid since August

Afghanistan's economic collapse is "happening before our eyes", says the UN humanitarian chief, as he called on the international community to intervene to avert further deaths.

Marty Griffiths told The Associated Press on Thursday that donor nations need to agree that, in addition to emergency humanitarian aid, they must meet Afghans' basic needs like education, hospitals, electricity and paying civil servants. As per him it is also essential to inject liquidity into the economy, which has seen the banking system "pretty well shut down."

"We're seeing the economic collapse being exponential," he said. "It's getting more and more dire by the week."

The liquidity issue in Afghanistan must be resolved by the end of the year, and money must be funnelled to frontline service workers during the winter, Griffiths said. He added that the worsening economic situation makes him rethink his earlier belief that Afghanistan could get through the winter with only humanitarian aid.

Four million children are out of school and nine million more will be soon, he said, because 70 per cent of teachers have not been paid since August. 

"And if we don't make that happen, all that discussion about the right of women and girls going to school becomes academic," he said.

"So, my message today is a wake-up call about the humanitarian consequences of an economic collapse and the need to take urgent action," Griffiths said.

Despite Taliban promises of inclusion and tolerance toward women and ethnic minorities, the international community has been dismayed by their actions, which include renewing restrictions on women and appointing an all-male government.

As a result of the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan's aid-dependent economy was thrown into turmoil. Due to lack of clarity about the new government, Afghanistan's USD 9 billion in reserves, which are mostly held in the United States, were frozen and the International Monetary Fund blocked about USD 450 million.

Taliban leaders have banned foreign currency transactions and urged the US to ease sanctions so that teachers, doctors, and other government employees can be paid.

Griffiths said the UN is asking the US and other donors for money; which, he said, will not go to the Taliban, but instead directly to teachers, doctors, electricity providers, and other civil servants.

He said the consequences of Afghanistan's collapsed economy are becoming more visible -- reports of hospitals without electricity, malnutrition, and three or four children sharing one bed, as well as tens of thousands of unpaid doctors, teachers, and civil servants struggling to survive.

Despite the fact that the United States has always supported the provision of electricity in Afghanistan, he noted that 80 per cent of the electricity sources are "now at the brink of stoppage, and without electricity you have automatic consequences."

Watch | Desperation drives thousands of Afghans to cross into Iran

Griffiths said the UN hoped to see USD 700 million come in by January 31 for services for the Afghan people. He said the World Bank reprogrammed USD 280 million to be used for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.

Unless crucial services are provided to the Afghan people, Griffiths warned, "we know what's going to happen."

(With inputs from agencies)