Afghanistan's economy is in "free fall", the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told a special meeting on Sunday, warning that if decisive and compassionate action is not taken immediately, it may "pull the entire population with it".
Speaking virtually to the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad, Pakistan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths painted a grim picture of 23 million people facing hunger; malnourished children overflowing in health facilities; 70 percent of teachers working without salaries; and millions of students – Afghanistan's future – out of school.
Moreover, this is occurring as the value of the Afghani currency plummets, a lack of confidence in the financial sector destroys trade and the space for borrowing and investment dramatically constricts.
"The need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system is now urgent – not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond", he said.
The UN official welcomed the decision by the World Bank's Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to transfer $280 million by the end of December to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
"This step should be followed by reprogramming of the whole fund to support the Afghan people this winter", he said.
"Families simply do not have the cash for everyday transactions, while prices for key commodities continue to rise".
The cost of wheat and fuel are up by around 40 percent and food now accounts for more than 80 percent of the average household expenditure.
And as international development support has frozen up, basic social services that all Afghans depend on are collapsing.
Mr. Griffiths cautioned that by the middle of next year, universal poverty – reaching 97 percent of the population – could be "the next grim milestone".
"Within a year, 30 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product could be lost altogether, while male unemployment may double to 29 percent”, he spelled out.