UN warns millions of Afghans at risk of famine as crises grow
Warning that Afghanistan faces deepening poverty with 6 million people at risk of famine, the U.N. humanitarian chief on Monday 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 U.N. 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.
Despite the challenges, he said U.N. 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.”
With more than 70 percent of Afghan’s living in rural areas, Griffiths warned that if agriculture and livestock production aren’t protected “millions of lives and livelihoods will be risked, and the country’s capacity to produce food imperiled.”
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 U.N. Security Council meeting on the eve of the first anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and its ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, sharply criticised 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.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said the United States is the world’s leading donor in Afghanistan, providing more than $775 million in humanitarian aid to Afghans in the country and the region in the last year.
To Russia’s claims that Afghanistan’s problems are the fault of the West and not the Taliban, Thomas-Greenfield asked, “What are you doing to help other than rehash the past and criticize others?”
She said Russia has contributed only $2 million to the U.N. humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan and China’s contributions “have been similarly underwhelming.”
“If the Russian Federation believes that there was an economy in Afghanistan to be destroyed, it’s been destroyed by the Taliban,” she said.
August 30, 2022