97 Percent of Afghans Living in Poverty & 20 Million Facing Food Insecurity, Says UN Relief Chief

The latest: The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths has said that 97 percent of Afghans are living in poverty with 20 million people are facing food insecurity and hunger.

Go deeper:

  • Griffiths made the remarks on the situation of Afghanistan at a UN Security Council’s meeting.
  • “97 percent of Afghans live in poverty. Two-third of the population needs humanitarian assistance to survive. 20 million people face acute hunger,” he said. With winter is on the corner millions of Afghans are facing dire situation.
  • He added that humanitarian aid must be complemented with development initiatives for Afghanistan.
  • “There has been a paucity of progress on restarting urgently needed development initiatives, without which the humanitarian situation is likely to further deteriorate, resulting in more people requiring emergency assistance,” he told the Security Council in a briefing.
  • “Saving lives cannot be the sole responsibility of the humanitarian community, and I say this as a life-long humanitarian. Development partners also save lives. Humanitarian programming cannot and should not be seen as the only acceptable channel through which the extraordinary suffering of Afghans is addressed,” he said.
  • The lack of funding is another challenge for humanitarian work in Afghanistan, said Griffiths.
  • “We face a daunting financial challenge as we enter 2023. We need 4.6 billion U.S. dollars to adequately address the country’s humanitarian needs. Despite the many pressing global demands, we cannot underestimate the consequences of decreasing funding to operations in Afghanistan,” he warned.
  • “Half of the people urgently need access to clean water and sanitation. And 1.1 million teenage girls remain banned from school. Nearly 7 million Afghan nationals remain in neighboring countries, including as refugees, and more than 3.4 million conflict-induced internally displaced people are still to find solutions, he said.
  • He also spoke about Taliban restrictions and said that the de facto authorities have detained humanitarian staff, tried to influence or control humanitarian response, and constrained women’s freedom of movement and involvement in humanitarian action.
  • “The mahram requirement, in particular, is what hampers women’s participation in humanitarian action the most and persistently impacts women’s access to services. There have been concerning reports from Helmand Province, among others, that women have been prevented from entering health facilities when they don’t have a mahram, he said. “Effective humanitarian assistance relies on the meaningful participation of women. We cannot overstate their capacities, insight, and ability to reach women and girls across provinces, across communities.”

Zoom out: The World Bank has reported that the real GDP of Afghanistan will contract further, with an accumulated contraction of close to 30-35 percent between 2021 and 2022.

  • And if lingering conflict, entrenched poverty, economic downfall, and political instability were not enough, Afghanistan must also contend with a worsening climate crisis. A third consecutive drought is looming, bringing with it threats of more displacement, more disease, more death. Winter is already in full swing, causing temperatures to plummet.
  • However, the UN has reached around 25 million people in all 34 governorates with at least some form of assistance.
  • On issues of unfair aid distribution, the UN aid chief said that they have put multiple monitoring mechanisms in place to make sure that assistance goes to the intended recipients. These include routine post-distribution monitoring; the use of Third-Party Monitors; community feedback mechanisms; and regular site visits and field missions by both management and technical staff.
  • External audits are conducted to verify project expenditures including, but not limited to, cash distributions to beneficiaries, community shelter constructions, staff salaries and supplier and consultant payments.
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