Winter Famine Averted in Afghanistan, UN Envoy Says

Aktual Indonesia - Donors and relief agencies have helped temporarily stave off mass starvation and famine in Afghanistan this winter by assisting about 20 million needy Afghans, but the country still faces bleak economic prospects.

“We believe as the winter season comes to an end that we have perhaps averted our worst fears of famine and widespread starvation,” Deborah Lyons, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told the Security Council on Wednesday.

Relief agencies had warned about mass starvation during the cold season, which lasts through March. The landlocked country plunged into a massive humanitarian crisis and its economy nearly collapsed after the Taliban took power in August 2021.

While donors have ceased all development aid to Afghanistan since August 2021, U.S. and other donors have continued providing financial aid to U.N. agencies and NGOs to assist the most vulnerable Afghans. On Tuesday, the World Bank announced it would provide more than $1 billion to U.N. agencies and international NGOs to mitigate humanitarian needs in Afghanistan.

“Let's be realistic. What we have done has been only to buy a little time,” Lyons said, adding that Afghanistan’s economy was facing a tipping point as businesses close, unemployment rises and more Afghans fall into poverty.

“It is imperative that we not find ourselves six months from now in the situation we faced six months ago, with millions of Afghans facing another winter of starvation and the only tool at our disposal being expensive and unsustainable humanitarian handouts,” she said.

U.N. agencies have appealed for $4.4 billion to provide essential aid to 22 million people in Afghanistan in 2022. As of this week, less than 13% of the appeal has been met, according to a U.N. financial tracking service.

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