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UN fund to help poverty hit Afghans endure winter without mass displacement

The fund aims to inject liquidity into Afghan households by providing cash to Afghan workers in public works programmes and micro-enterprises.

People walk in front of a bakery in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 4, 2021
People walk in front of a bakery in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 4, 2021 (Jorge Silva / Reuters)

The United Nations has said it set up a special trust fund to provide urgently-needed cash directly to Afghans through a system tapping into donor funds frozen since the Taliban takeover in August.

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With the local economy “imploding”, the aim is to inject liquidity into Afghan households to permit them to survive this winter and remain in their homeland despite the turmoil, it said on Thursday.

Achim Steiner, the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) administrator said that Germany, a first contributor, had pledged $58 million (50 million euros) to the fund, and that it was in touch with other donors to mobilise resources.

“We have to step in, we have to stabilise a ‘people’s economy’ and in addition to saving lives, we also have to save livelihoods,” Steiner told a news briefing.

“Because otherwise, we will confront indeed a scenario through this winter and into next year where millions and millions of Afghans are simply unable to stay on their land, in their homes, in their villages and survive. The implications of that are not difficult to understand,” he said.

UN: Afghanistan’s economy on brink of collapse

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s economy is set to contract up to 30 percent this year and this is likely to further fuel a refugee crisis that will affect neighbouring countries, Turkey and Europe.

The Taliban takeover saw billions in central bank assets frozen 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.

Steiner said the challenge is to repurpose donor funds already earmarked for Afghanistan, where the Taliban, the de facto authorities, are not recognised.

“Discussions over the last few weeks have focused on how we do find a way to be able to mobilise these resources in view of the economic implosion that is now unfolding and the international community’s repeated commitment not to abandon the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

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