The UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has asked donors to immediately provide $770 million to help the war-ravaged country.

Martin Griffiths says Afghanistan faces multiple crises – humanitarian, economic, climate, hunger and financial.
Martin Griffiths says Afghanistan faces multiple crises – humanitarian, economic, climate, hunger and financial. (Petros Giannakouris / File / AP)

Warning that Afghanistan faces deepening poverty with 6 million people at risk of famine, the UN humanitarian chief has urged donors to restore funding for economic development in the war-ravaged country.

Speaking at the UN Security Council on Monday, Martin Griffiths asked the donors to immediately provide $770 million to help Afghans get through the winter as the United States argued with Russia and China over who should pay.

He said 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. And “we worry” that the figures will soon become worse because winter weather will send already high fuel and food prices skyrocketing.

READ MORE: A year after Taliban takeover, Afghans wait for a better future

Development support 'needed'

The Taliban “have no budget to invest in their own future,” Griffiths said, and “it’s clear that some development support needs to be started,” stressing that humanitarian aid won't be able to replace the necessary system-wide services. 

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.

READ MORE: Why is the Taliban clamping down on crypto exchanges in Afghanistan?

Trading blame, responsibility

Russia called the UN Security Council meeting on the eve of the first anniversary of the US 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.

Nebenzia also accused the US and its allies of abandoning Afghans to face “ruin, poverty, terrorism, hunger and other challenges.”

“Instead of acknowledging their own mistakes and supporting the reconstruction of the destroyed country,” he said, they blocked Afghan financial resources and disconnected its central bank from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun also accused the US and its allies of “evading responsibility and abandoning the Afghan people” by cutting off development aid, freezing Afghan assets and imposing “political isolation and blockade.”

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield underlined that the Taliban was to blame for the situation, accused the group of imposing policies that “repress and starve the Afghan people instead of protecting them” and of increasing taxes on critically needed assistance.

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Nonetheless, Thomas-Greenfield said, the United States is the world’s leading donor in Afghanistan. As for Afghan frozen assets, President Joe Biden announced in February that the $7 billion in the US was being divided — $3.5 billion for a UN trust fund to provide aid to Afghans and $3.5 billion for families of American victims of 9/11. 

This division policy has been heavily criticised, including by families of 9/11 victims who penned an open letter to Biden this month calling on him to modify the executive order about the funds.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies