KABUL: The situation in Afghanistan may turn into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN said on Saturday, a day after the country’s Taliban government called on the international community to urgently release a $1.2 billion package pledged by the Group of 20 major economies.
Afghanistan plunged into economic crisis when the Western-backed government collapsed and fled the country in mid-August as the Taliban took control, triggering the suspension of billions of dollars in assistance to its aid-dependent economy.
Afghanistan’s permanent representative-designate to the UN and former Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, appealed to the international community in a series of tweets on Friday to disburse the aid package on an urgent basis as the harsher winter months are fast approaching.
While the global community has been facing the tough decision of how aid should reach the Afghan people without recognizing a Taliban government, Shaheen said they were “ready to fully cooperate” through designated organizations.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Arab News on Saturday that it was trying to provide aid to about half of the country’s population.
“Humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are deepening and the country is on the brink of becoming the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” said Linda Tom, OCHA spokesperson in Kabul.
“At the beginning of the year, already 18 million people were in need of aid due to decades of conflict, drought and the economic consequences of COVID-19,” she said. “With winter approaching, the humanitarian community, both UN and NGOs, are working to reach 9 million people with winter aid.”
Tom added that funds for the humanitarian community had to continue as it was critical to get aid to people ahead of winter, but so far the UN secretary general’s call last month for more than $600 million in a “flash appeal” for Afghans had been only partially answered.
“The humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan is for $606 million, but we have only received less than half,” she said.
As Shaheen in his Friday tweets renewed his government’s request that the country’s foreign reserves be unfrozen, some economic experts in Kabul said that it was key to averting the unfolding crisis.
“The world must unfreeze Afghanistan foreign assets first; this will help the Afghan people to tackle the current crisis,” an economist, Hamidullah Mofid, told Arab News.
The US froze $10 billion of the country’s central bank assets after the Taliban captured Kabul on Aug. 15.
“The economic situation in Afghanistan is fragile, a new wave of crisis is threatening people and putting them in danger. According to the statistics of the UN, around 18 million Afghan citizens are in extreme danger,” he said. “The international community must continue their humanitarian aid, especially the new commitments that they have given.”