Categories: Economic News

Humanitarian aid cannot be used to fix Afghanistan’s economy: UN

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul in August last year, following the withdrawal of US troops from the country after nearly two decades of war.

Paula Bronstein. | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is not enough to sustain its economy and more investment is needed to support the country’s development, according to the United Nations.

“Humanitarian aid cannot be used to fix what has been a completely collapsed economy,” said Kanni Wignaraja, assistant secretary-general and regional director for Asia-Pacific at the United Nations Development Programme.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul in August last year, following the withdrawal of US troops from the country after nearly two decades of war.

Wignaraja said the “massive humanitarian operation” that took place in the second half of last year after the Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s government was “much needed to save lives”.

But it is a mistake to suspend investments to rebuild and develop the country, he said.

Lack of investment from the private sector and development agencies is worsening the country’s humanitarian crisis and battered economy, Wignaraja added.

He said investments are needed to revive Afghanistan’s economy and its domestic market, as small and micro-enterprises have created job opportunities for men and women in the country for decades.

“A large part of the UN and UNDP effort is [to] boost the local business sector and get it going because Afghans will feed Afghans. They will produce their own food,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

Others such as the Red Cross have also pointed out that humanitarian work alone is not enough to help pull Afghanistan out of its economic rut.

“Humanitarian organizations alone cannot replace public institutions in a country of 40 million people,” Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Reuters on Monday.

“So we really urge states and development agencies to go back to Afghanistan to support Afghans who continue to bear the brunt of the economic turmoil.”

State and development agencies remain reluctant to provide funds to Afghanistan unless the Taliban fulfills “their end of the bargain”: allow girls to finish high school, create jobs for women in place of work and become a more inclusive government, Wignaraja said.

Afghanistan is “the only country in the world” where girls cannot finish high school, she said.

“Women’s dignity and rights” were taken away when their right to work was discarded, and it has cost the Afghan economy an estimated $1 billion, he added.

More than 6,000 American lives were lost, and more than 100,000 Afghans were killed, during the 20-year conflict, and the US spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan.


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