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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Afghanistan on the brink of humanitarian collapse, UNDP report

UNDP report paints a grim picture of Afghanistan's humanitarian collapse and urges urgent release of frozen assets to create a breathing space. Without streamlined cash flow, the Afghan government cannot function properly and the "conditional aid" is making the socio-economic situation worse.

THE UNDP report depicts Afghanistan being on the brink of humanitarian collapse and warns that if the international community does not find the way to keep money, funds and aids flowing in the country, poverty will reach at alarming levels.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said in this report which was released on Thursday that around 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population may sink below the poverty line unless the country’s economic woes are not addressed and a peaceful political settlement doesn’t reach general consensus and international recognition.

Also, the report showed that around $10bn of Afghanistan’s assets remain outside the country, still frozen and this is used as a leverage over the new administration. Earlier the United Nations Chief had stressed that aids and money should flow undisrupted to Afghanistan so that the general public is given maximum relief. Pakistan along with the regional countries and key stakeholders such as Qatar and Turkey has expressed the view to offer streamlined and continued lifeline to the Taliban government so that danger of humanitarian collapse can be kept at the bay.

Afghanistan humanitarian collapse indicators

But the UN special envoy on Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told the Security Council on Thursday that a way needed to be found to get the money into the country “to prevent a total breakdown of the economy and social order” noting that Afghanistan’s socio-economic crisis remain unabated including a plummeting currency, a sharp rise in prices for food and fuel and a lack of cash at private banks. The authorities also do not have the funds to pay salaries, she pointed out.

“The economy must be allowed to breathe for a few more months, giving the Taliban a chance to demonstrate flexibility and a genuine will to do things differently this time, notably from a human rights, gender, and counterterrorism perspective,” Lyons told the 15-member Council, saying safeguards could be devised to ensure the funds were not misused.

Foreign donors led by the United States provided more than 75 percent of the public expenditure for the Afghanistan government that crumbled as the US withdrew its troops after 20 years in the country.

Read more: Afghanistan, world’s least peaceful country: Who is responsible?

Conditional humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Biden claims

President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is open to donating humanitarian aid but says that any direct economic lifeline, including unfreezing the central bank assets will depend on how Taliban act and to the extent they remain true to their promises such as protecting fundamental freedoms, ensuring that Afghan soil is not used to harbor attacks on the west and the providing safe passage to people to leave. The first civilian flight out of Kabul – carrying more than 100 passengers – landed in Qatar on Thursday

The International Monetary Fund has also blocked the Taliban from accessing some $440m in new emergency reserves.

“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is simple: any legitimacy and support will have to be earned,” senior US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the Security Council.

Read more: Time for a Regional Economic Package for Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s assets should be released to prevent humanitarian collapse

The UNDP report emphasized that Afghanistan’s assets should be released so that humanitarian collapse can be avoided as the Afghans and the Afghan government both need life support in the form of streamlined cash flow, aids and funds to keep economy and political system running in a smooth and effective manner.

Russia and China, which has offered millions in emergency aid to the country, have both argued for the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets.

“These assets belong to Afghanistan and should be used for Afghanistan, not as leverage for threats or restraints,” China’s Deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang said.

Afghanistan’s UN Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai, who was appointed by the US-backed government that collapsed as the Taliban advanced, urged the Security Council to “withhold any recognition of any government in Afghanistan unless it’s truly inclusive and formed on the basis of free will of the people.”

Volatile Afghanistan situation politically and economically

Charles Stratford, Al-Jazeera correspondent reporting from the capital Kabul, said 18 million people out of 39 million Afghan population rely on humanitarian aid on a daily basis in Afghanistan and one-third of the population is living below poverty line

“It’s a dire situation. There have been convoys coming across from Pakistan and we know that some NGOs have been using airports in other cities, like Mazar-e-Sharif, to try to get aid in,” he said.

“We know there are ongoing discussions within the UN on how to increase the amount of aid.

“But of course, there are some very real problems, like the political situation: there are many Taliban officials in this interim government that are on a black list, one of whom, the interim interior minister, is on terror watch list – so the issue is how to deal with that on an international political level.”

Read more: Terrible Drought in Afghanistan Pushing People to Desperation

Afghanistan ushered in a full storm

Astrid Sletten from the Norwegian Refugee Council told Al Jazeera: “It’s not just the conflict, it’s the perfect storm.”

“More than half a million people have already fled drought-affected areas and they are at imminent risk of starvation and freezing to death for the upcoming winter”

She said that the Taliban has allowed her organization to bring back female staff to work.

“This is a disaster and the international community needs to step up and support not only humanitarian action but also lift or ease the sanctions,” she said echoing the UNDP report that rang alarm bells about imminent humanitarian collapse if collective action to streamline aid and cash to Afghanistan is not promoted.