| 6 December 2023, Wednesday |

UN chief pleads with US, World Bank to unlock Afghanistan funds

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the United States and the World Bank to unfreeze Afghan funds that have been frozen since the Taliban’s return to power in order to avoid “the horror unfolding in Afghanistan” from worsening.

“We must… quickly infuse cash into the economy in order to avoid a breakdown that would result in poverty, hunger, and destitution for millions,” Guterres told reporters in New York.

The country has found itself on the verge of a humanitarian disaster since the Taliban hardline Islamist movement seized power in mid-August, after the United States completed its 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Washington has blocked billions of dollars in assets, relief supplies have been severely interrupted, and more than half of the population threatens hunger.

According to humanitarian agencies, an estimated 4.7 million individuals would suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022, with 1.1 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Speaking to reporters two days after the UN indicated it needed $5 billion in funding for Afghanistan in 2022, Guterres urged Washington to take the lead in preventing a breakdown in the nation “since the majority of the world financial system operates in dollars.”

Following repeated warnings that more than half of Afghanistan’s population could experience serious food shortages this winter, foreign donors decided to transfer $280 million in aid to Afghanistan last month.

“I hope that the remaining resources – more than $1.2 billion” from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) “would become available to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter,” Guterres told reporters.

The Afghan central bank’s assets were confiscated by Washington for roughly $9.5 billion. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have also ceased operations in Afghanistan, withholding funding and $340 million in additional reserves released by the IMF in August.

“Freezing temperatures and frozen assets are a dangerous combination for the people of Afghanistan,” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Guterres also urged the Taliban to preserve women’s and girls’ rights. “No country can prosper by denying half its population’s rights,” he remarked.

  • AFP