UN warns 6 million Afghans at risk of famine as crises grow

Aug 31, 2022: According to a report by AP, warning that Afghanistan faces deepening poverty with 6 million people at risk of famine, the UN humanitarian chief urged donors to restore funding for economic development and immediately provide $770 million to help Afghans get through the winter as the United States argued with Russia and China over who should pay.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that Afghanistan faces multiple crises — humanitarian, economic, climate, hunger and financial.

Conflict, poverty, climate shocks and food insecurity “have long been a sad reality” in Afghanistan, but he said what makes the current situation “so critical” is the halt to large-scale development aid since the Taliban takeover a year ago.

More than half the Afghan population — some 24 million people — need assistance and close to 19 million are facing acute levels of food insecurity, Griffiths said. And “we worry” that the figures will soon become worse because winter weather will send already high fuel and food prices skyrocketing.

Despite the challenges, he said UN agencies and their NGO partners have mounted “an unprecedented response” over the past year, reaching almost 23 million people.

But he said $614 million is urgently required to prepare for winter including repairing and upgrading shelters and providing warm clothes and blankets — and an additional $154 million is needed to preposition food and other supplies before the weather cuts access to certain areas.

Griffiths stressed, however, that “humanitarian aid will never be able to replace the provision of system-wide services to 40 million people across the country.”

He said the country’s banking and liquidity crisis, and the extreme difficulty of international financial transactions must also be tackled.
“The consequences of inaction on both the humanitarian and development fronts will be catastrophic and difficult to reverse,” Griffiths warned.

Russia called the UN Security Council meeting on the eve of the first anniversary of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, sharply criticized the “ignominious 20-year campaign” by the United States and its NATO allies.

He claimed they did nothing to build up the Afghan economy and their presence only strengthened the country’s status “as a hotbed of terrorism” and narcotics production and distribution.

Nebenzia also accused the US and its allies of abandoning Afghans to face “ruin, poverty, terrorism, hunger and other challenges.”

“Instead of acknowledging their own mistakes and supporting the reconstruction of the destroyed country,” he said, they blocked Afghan financial resources and disconnected its central bank from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun also accused the US and its allies of “evading responsibility and abandoning the Afghan people” by cutting off development aid, freezing Afghan assets and imposing “political isolation and blockade.”

President Joe Biden announced in February that the $7 billion in the US was being divided — $3.5 billion for a UN trust fund to provide aid to Afghans and $3.5 billion for families of American victims of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.

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