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UN Agency Launches Program to Restore Livelihoods of Afghan People

A boy stands with his flock of sheep at a village in Wardak province, Afghanistan, Oct. 11, 2021.
A boy stands with his flock of sheep at a village in Wardak province, Afghanistan, Oct. 11, 2021.

The U.N. Development Program is launching a plan to help millions of Afghans who have lost their livelihoods in the midst of the recent political turmoil regain the ability to earn a living and feed their families.

The speed and degree to which Afghanistan’s economy has imploded since the Taliban gained control of the country in mid-August is breathtaking. Most affected are the country’s 38 million people, many of whom are unable to support themselves.

The latest assessment by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) forecasts 97 percent of households in Afghanistan could sink below the poverty line by early to mid-2022 if the country’s political and economic crisis is not urgently addressed.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner acknowledges the country is in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, however, he said measures must be taken to keep the local economies going. He said international aid alone cannot keep 38 million Afghans alive.

“We have to step in. We have to stabilize the people’s economy and in addition to saving lives in the immediate.We also have to save livelihoods 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 the land, in their homes, in their villages, and survive,” said Steiner.

The UNDP has established a Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan to protect the hard-won development gains the country has achieved over the past 20 years. Countries can channel funding for specific development and livelihood projects through this program.

Kanni Wignaraja is assistant secretary general and director of the Regional Bureau for Asia Pacific. She said the money will go directly to community groups and community members.

“It will provide a cash for work to support small public works efforts.As Achim said, it will provide temporary, basic income for the most vulnerable, including elderly and disabled.It will work with a number of U.N. agencies, with international and national NGO partners who are on the ground,” said Wignaraja.

UNDP estimates $667 million will be needed to cover the cost of livelihood activities for 4.5 million Afghans in the first year. It hopes to double the number of beneficiaries in the second year, if it is able to double the size of funding.

The agency says the launch of the Trust Fund is off to a good start, with a contribution of 50 million euros from the German government.