UN Agency Launches Program to Restore Afghan Livelihoods

The pace and extent of Afghanistan’s economic downturn has been in free fall since the Taliban took control of the country in mid-August 2021. Most affected are the country’s 38 million people, many of whom are unable to support themselves.

A recent assessment by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates that 97 percent of households in Afghanistan could be below the poverty line by early to mid-2022 if the country’s political and economic crisis is not addressed.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner, speaks during the presentation of the 2019 UNDP Human Development Report, in Bogota, Colombia, December 9, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez)

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner, speaks during the presentation of the 2019 UNDP Human Development Report, in Bogota, Colombia, December 9, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez)

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner acknowledged Afghanistan was in dire need of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, however, he said steps had to be taken to keep the local economy going. Steiner said international aid alone could not keep the 38 million Afghans alive.

“We have to step in. We must stabilize the people’s economy, apart from saving lives in the near future. We must also save livelihoods because otherwise we will face a situation during this winter until next year where millions of Afghans cannot live in their areas, in their homes, in their villages and survive,” he said.

Afghan people walk as they enter the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman on Aug. 25, 2021 after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan.  (Photo: AFP)

Afghan people walk as they enter the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman on Aug. 25, 2021 after the Taliban’s military takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo: AFP)

UNDP has established a Special Endowment Fund for Afghanistan to protect the hard-won development gains of the past 20 years. Other countries can channel funds for certain development projects and livelihood programs through the program.

Kanni Wignaraja, Assistant Secretary General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia Pacific, said the funds would be directly distributed to community groups and community members.

“This fund will provide cash for activities to support small public works projects. As Achim said, it would provide a temporary basic income for the most vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled. The program also collaborates with a number of UN agencies, partners from international and national NGOs in the field,” he explained.

UNDP estimates $667 million is needed to cover the costs of livelihood activities for 4.5 million Afghans in the first year. He hopes to double the number of beneficiaries in the second year, if the agency is able to double the amount of development funds.

The agency declared the launch Trust Fund (endowment) it is a good start, with a contribution of 50 million euros from the German government. [mg/lt]

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