UN aid chief urges G20 to prevent massive famine in Afghanistan

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UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The UN humanitarian chief sent a terrible message to the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies gathered this weekend: worry about Afghanistan as its economy collapses and half the population is at risk of not having enough to eat because the snow has already started to fall.

Martin Griffiths said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that “the needs in Afghanistan are skyrocketing”.

Half of Afghan children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition and there is a measles epidemic in every province which is “a red light” and “the canary in the mine” for what’s going on in society , did he declare.

Griffiths warned that food insecurity leads to malnutrition, then disease and death, and “without corrective action” the world will see deaths in Afghanistan.

He said the World Food Program is currently feeding 4 million people in Afghanistan, but the UN predicts that due to harsh winter conditions and economic collapse, it will need to provide food to triple that number – 12 million. Afghans – “and it’s massive.”

WFP appealed this week for $ 200 million to fund its operations through the end of the year, and Griffiths urged countries that have suspended development assistance to Afghanistan after the takeover Taliban on August 15, including the United States and European countries, to transfer this money for desperately needed humanitarian aid. He noted that the European Union had already spent around 100 million euros on humanitarian work, and the United States on Thursday announced more than 144 million dollars in humanitarian aid, bringing its total aid to Afghans in the country. and refugees in the region to nearly $ 474 million in 2021..

Griffiths said the current crisis is the result of two major droughts in recent years, the disruption of services during the Taliban-Afghan government conflict, and the collapse of the economy.

“So the message I would like to convey to the leaders of the G20 is the concern over the economic collapse in Afghanistan, because the economic collapse in Afghanistan will, of course, have an exponential effect on the region,” he said. he declares. “And the specific issue I would ask them to focus on first is the issue of injecting money into the Afghan economy – not in the hands of the Taliban – in the hands of people whose access to their own. bank accounts is not frozen. “

Griffiths said it is also essential that frontline health workers, teachers and others receive their salaries.

He said many ideas are being discussed with increasing urgency to secure liquidity in the market and his message is that an urgent response is needed this year, not next spring.

Ideas include the physical inflow of cash into Afghanistan, which Griffiths says has “great difficulty” and the use of local Afghan currency. But the problem is how to get traders to safely supply Afghans for use by aid agencies, he said, and “they probably will only do that if they think they can get them. foreign currency for these Afghans “.

The G20 summit is being held Saturday and Sunday in Rome.

Griffiths warned of the exponential effects of an economic collapse, saying the first worry is that if people don’t get services, food, schooling for their children and health care, they will move out, either inside the country or flee Afghanistan in order to survive.

The second concern, he said, is the growing problem of terrorism, “and it is something that usually happens in times of uncertainty and in times of suffering.”

“And it would be a terrible legacy to visit all the Afghan people,” Griffiths said. “So far, I think we are just holding our breath on the stability of the country and talking to the Taliban daily about what they need to do, for example, to make sure women and girls have their rights.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said the Taliban must guarantee the rights of women and girls “because it is part of stabilizing Afghanistan.”

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