Afghanistan ‘on the brink of disaster’: UN envoy | News

The UN Special Representative in Afghanistan urges the international community to find ways to provide financial support to the Afghan people.

The UN envoy to Afghanistan says the country is “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe” and calls on the international community to find ways to provide financial support to the Afghan people who “feel abandoned”.

Deborah Lyons said an estimated 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million people are facing crisis levels of hunger in a food emergency that is likely to worsen over the winter.

“Now is not the time to turn away from the Afghan people,” Lyons told a news conference on Wednesday at the United Nations.

“Leaving the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake – a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences,” she told the UN Security Council earlier in the day.

Humanitarian disaster ‘preventable’

Lyons added that the humanitarian catastrophe “can be prevented” as its main cause is economic sanctions against the Taliban, which took over the country in August, and she assured the international community that the UN would do everything possible to avoid diverting funds to the Taliban.

Sanctions “have paralyzed the banking system and are affecting all aspects of the economy”, according to the UN envoy. The country’s GDP is estimated to have fallen by 40 percent since the Taliban took power.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) blocked the release of about $ 450 million to Afghanistan more than a week after the Western-backed government collapsed and the Taliban took over. The Afghan central bank’s reserves of 9 billion. The USD, most of which is held in the United States, was also frozen.

Asked by Al Jazeera’s James Bays whether releasing the frozen funds would alleviate the current humanitarian crisis, Lyons said: “We are looking at the money that has already been committed by donors to humanitarian work and ensuring that we have mechanisms in place. to make it flow. “

“Freezing assets is something that is a decision of key countries.”

Lyons said a new mechanism to pay health care workers’ salaries has been set up. The Taliban has struggled to pay workers in key sectors such as health and education.

“The paralysis of the banking sector will push more of the financial system to irresponsible and unregulated informal money exchanges,” said the envoy, who “can only help facilitate terrorism, trade and further drug smuggling”, which will first affect Afghanistan and then “infect the region. . “

Against the weak background, Lyons warned that the Taliban have not been able to stem the expansion of ISIL (ISIS), which now appears to be present in almost every province and is increasingly active. The UN estimates that the number of attacks attributed to ISIL has increased significantly, from 60 last year to 334 this year.

Release of assets

China and Russia urgently called for the release of Afghanistan’s reserves, but US special adviser on special political affairs Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis did not mention sanctions.

He criticized the Taliban for ignoring calls from the Security Council and the international community to peacefully pursue a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and instead opt for a victory on the battlefield.

“And we are now seeing the terrible consequences of this election unfold before our eyes,” he told the Security Council.

“But the Afghan people should not have to pay twice for the Taliban decision,” DeLaurentis said, adding that the United States is the largest humanitarian donor to Afghanistan with $ 474 million in aid provided in 2021, and calls on other countries to increase their support. .

The UN envoy promised to continue to raise difficult issues with the Taliban, including calls for the restoration of the rights of women and girls and ethnic minorities and for a more inclusive administration.

Lyons said the Taliban has acknowledged the concerns raised by the international community and is trying to resolve them.

The Taliban government has not been recognized by any country or the UN. Afghanistan’s UN seat is still held by the representative of the former government, Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai.

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