KABUL: The Taliban on Saturday urged the global community to continue providing aid and humanitarian support to its population of 38 million after the UN development agency warned that Afghanistan was on the brink of “universal poverty” as early as 2022.
In its report on Thursday, the United Nations Development Programme said that prolonged drought, the COVID-19 pandemic and political chaos that ensued after the Taliban’s return to power last month could cause the war-torn country’s poverty rate to rise, calling for “urgent action” to avert the crisis.
“Afghanistan pretty much faces universal poverty by the middle of next year,” Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Director, told a news conference on Thursday, launching the report.
Nearly half of the country is already in need of charitable support, a UN statistic acknowledged by Afghanistan’s new rulers who blamed the former government led by President Ashraf Ghani for the “disaster.”
#WATCH: Two #UAE aircrafts unloaded dozens of aid packages to #Afghanistan on Saturday containing roast minced veal, powdered milk, cooking oil and medical supplies https://t.co/p6khKe9Hmb pic.twitter.com/mZkdlvrG2U
— Arab News (@arabnews) September 12, 2021
However, he said it was imperative to maintain a steady flow of aid, relaying the group’s dependence on international support nearly a month after capturing Kabul on Aug. 15.
“We are calling on the international community to maintain their aid; we are in urgent need as drought and political chaos has hit us hard, and we need to survive with the help of global humanitarian aid,” Ahmadi added.
The Taliban have maintained that their government would safeguard civilians’ rights.
The group announced its all-male interim government on Wednesday, with plans to reveal more ministries “soon.”
However, fearing Taliban reprisals and a reinstatement of the harsh form of governance that marked their rule from 1996 to 2001, tens of thousands of Afghans fled the country last month, with the UNDP report saying that the worsening economic situation could push more people to leave.
The UNDP’s emergency appeal for nearly $200m to help almost 11 million people in Afghanistan, or roughly one-third of its population, comes after the US, other global powers and the International Monetary Fund froze funds after the Taliban’s August takeover.
However, Afghanistan was already heavily reliant on aid, with over a third of the country’s GDP drawn from foreign nations.
The UN report also said the Taliban’s takeover had put 20 years of “steady economic gains at risk” and comes ahead of a UN donor conference for Afghanistan on Monday, chaired by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Aid has been trickling in from countries such as Pakistan and Qatar, with China pledging to provide at least $31 million in emergency aid on Wednesday.
However, the economic challenges are steep, with a dearth of employment opportunities causing many Afghans to survive on less than $2 a day.
Locals are grappling with a looming crisis, with skyrocketing food prices and rising food insecurity. Qadria, a 35-year-old mother of five, told Arab News that she has turned to begging to “find bread for my children.”
“We are required to beg for bread as unemployment has increased and people can no longer support another,” she said.
The Shahr-e-Naw Park in Kabul has turned into a temporary shelter for people from the northern provinces of Afghanistan.
Enayatullah Karimi, a former finance officer of a private organization in Takhar province in the northeast of the country, moved to Kabul a few weeks ago and has no hope of returning home.
“Our lives have changed since the Taliban came back. We don’t have the financial ability to return to Takhar,” he said.
Experts fear a rise in migration to regional countries” amid the uncertainty.
“The region is facing drought, poverty and other challenges. But Afghanistan is at the frontline of a new humanitarian disaster, unfortunately. If no immediate action is taken, the numbers fleeing from Afghanistan will increase tenfold,” said Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst based in Kabul.
In its July and August reports, the UN refugee agency said that the worsening security situation in Afghanistan had forced an estimated 270,000 from their homes since January, bringing the total internally displaced to more than 3.5 million.
It also commended Pakistan for having hosted Afghan refugees “for decades,” with 1.4 million registered there.
“The world must provide support to Afghanistan through the UN, as it is acceptable to all sides in Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Jawad Satar, an economic analyst based in Kabul.
“The UN can lead this program and safeguard Afghanistan from a new humanitarian crisis,” he added.
Others said recognizing the Taliban’s government could be a step forward in the process.
“First, the world should support the Taliban and other Afghans to form a legitimate and acceptable government in Afghanistan,” Qais Zaheer, an international relations analyst, said.
“This will help the country negotiate with the world and seek humanitarian aid. At the internal stage, the Taliban should arrange a new policy to create strategic reserves.”