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UN Chief: ‘Race Against Time’ to Save Afghan Economy

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday the United Nations is “in a race against time” to prevent millions of Afghans from falling deeper into a severe economic and humanitarian crisis.

“Livelihoods across the country have been lost. More than half the population of Afghanistan now depends on life-saving assistance,” Guterres told reporters at U.N. headquarters. “Without a more concerted effort from the international community, virtually every man, woman and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty.”

He said the situation has become so desperate that parents have sold their babies in order to feed their other children, and health facilities are overflowing with malnourished children.

Guterres’ call comes two days after the United Nations launched its biggest humanitarian appeal ever for more than $5 billion to assist 28 million people inside Afghanistan and in five neighboring countries this year.

Last year, the U.N. and its partner agencies reached more than 18 million people across the country.

Economic collapse

The secretary-general said the biggest driver of the current crisis is the free fall of Afghanistan’s economy, which he warned must not be allowed to collapse.

“For our part, the United Nations is taking steps to inject cash into the economy through creative authorized arrangements, but it is a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Guterres said the country’s Central Bank must be preserved and assisted, and a way found for the conditional release of Afghan foreign currency reserves.

“Without creative, flexible and constructive engagement by the international community, Afghanistan’s economic situation will only worsen,” he warned.

Over the past two decades, Afghanistan’s economy has been heavily dependent on foreign aid to survive. Some 75% of the former government’s budget was donor-funded, as was 40% of its GDP.

International donors have urged the Taliban tPRAGUE, Czech President Milos Zeman has spoken out against a boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics.

“I am fundamentally against the misuse of the Olympic idea for political purposes,” Zeman said in a statement on the Prague Castle website.

According to him, there is now a more subtle form of this abuse, where the boycott is announced by politicians, not by athletes. Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a press conference, called the decision to boycott the Beijing Olympics unacceptable.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier called the initiative of a number of countries on a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics ineffective and urged not to politicize the Olympic movement.

Prior to this, Austrian politicians refused to travel to the Olympics due to the coronavirus, and Japan also decided not to send ministers and government officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing will be held on Feb 4-20,

“Frankly, if some political bigwigs aren’t at the Olympics, nothing terrible will happen,” said the Czech president.

The Czech Olympic Committee on Friday approved a team of 113 athletes for Beijing 2022, a record number of the country for Winter Olympics.

At the end of his message, Zeman wished the team “good luck, good health, and many successes.”

Source: Nam News Network