UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the crisis in Afghanistan was affecting at least 18 million people, calling for immediate action to inject liquidity into Afghanistan’s economy to avert its total collapse.

Afghan girls selling tea and water wait for customers at Nadir Khan hilltop in Kabul on October 10, 2021.
Afghan girls selling tea and water wait for customers at Nadir Khan hilltop in Kabul on October 10, 2021. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

The international community must find ways to inject cash directly into Afghanistan’s economy to avert its total collapse as a growing humanitarian crisis impacts half the population, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

Guterres, speaking to reporters at UN headquarters, also accused the Taliban of breaking promises they made after seizing power in August to uphold the rights of women and girls, including allowing girls to attend school.

"Broken promises lead to broken dreams for the women and girls of Afghanistan," Guterres said, asserting there "is no way" to heal the economy if the Taliban continue barring women from working.

His comments underscored the urgent need for steps to ease the economic and humanitarian crises that have grown since the Taliban took power as the 20-year US military intervention ended.

READ MORE:  Dreams and years of hard work: What is at stake for Afghan women?

The Taliban takeover saw billions in central bank assets freeze and international financial institutions suspend access to funds, although humanitarian aid has continued.

Banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared.

"The crisis is affecting at least 18 million people - half the country's population," said Guterres, adding that a massive UN humanitarian aid operation is underway in a "race against time" as winter approaches.

Guterres noted that the Afghan economy - kept afloat by foreign aid for two decades - was being buffeted by drought and Covid-19 before the Taliban seized power.

READ MORE: UNHCR: World must urgently provide aid to Afghanistan

'A make or break moment'

"I urge the world to take action and inject liquidity into the Afghan economy to avoid collapse," he said, explaining that any measures should avoid channeling cash through the Taliban.

They also should be taken independent of diplomatic decisions to recognise the Islamists' government, he said.

One way to inject liquidity into the economy, he said, is for UN agencies and humanitarian groups to make cash payments directly to people, he said, adding the World Bank could create a special trust fund from which money could be drawn.

But, he said, "The main responsibility for finding a way back from the abyss lies" with the Taliban.

The group not only promised to uphold the rights of women and girls, but those of minorities and former government employees, Guterres said.

"This is a make or break moment," he said, warning that without action, the world will "pay a heavy price" as increasing numbers of Afghans flee their country "in search of a better life."

READ MORE: Hundreds of Afghans, many eager to flee, throng Kabul passport office

Source: Reuters