As much as 97 percent of Afghan population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line unless a response to the country’s political and economic crises is urgently launched, said an appraisal by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The appraisal said that the real GDP could contract by as much as 13.2 percent, leading to an increase in the poverty rate of up to 25 percentage points, the report pointed out.
“A 10-13 percent reduction in GDP could, in the worst-case scenario, bring Afghanistan to the precipice of near universal poverty – a 97 percent poverty rate by mid-2022 – despite the difficult but real progress achieved over the last 20 years,” the UNDP appraisal pointed out.
UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific Kanni Wignaraja noted that the Country was facing a full-on development collapse on top of humanitarian and economic crises.
“Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. This analysis suggests that we are on course for rapid, catastrophic deterioration in the lives of Afghan’s most vulnerable people,” she said.
FOOD INSECURITY, HEALTH CONCERN
With skyrocketing food prices and an interruption in economic activities and essential services, the UNDP analysis found that food insecurity was rising precipitously. The UN organisation also raised concern over the health of the people, who are already compounded by COVID-19.
In addition to a prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghan is contending with the upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, collapsing public finances, increasing pressure on the banking system, and rising poverty.
It said that the hardships are borne by the hardest in poor urban and rural communities, where the most vulnerable are facing the unenviable choice of either finding a way to sustain their livelihoods while remaining in place or joining the large numbers already displaced.
The UNDP also finds that half a million people have already been displaced in the months leading up to the Aug 15th take over.
The UN agency said that it proposed a package to help improve the immediate living conditions of the most vulnerable people and communities, prioritising safeguarding women and girls’ rights. The package focuses on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure and aims to support close to nine million vulnerable people through a 24-month community development programme.
Under the plan, the most vulnerable would benefit from cash-for-work schemes, grants for small and medium enterprises, especially women-run businesses. Children, people with disabilities and elderly citizens would receive temporary basic income through monthly cash transfers.
Wignaraja called on the international community to launch a response commensurate with the scale of the crisis in Afghanistan. “A transition to new authorities, a pandemic, a drought, an oncoming winter season – each of these on their own would already pose a major challenge. Taken together, they form a crisis that demands urgent action,” she said. “This program aims to contribute to improving the lives of the most vulnerable, while also reducing displacement that could further compound the situation.”