Millions of Afghan lives and livelihoods in danger without support, says UN Development Programme Chief
*Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, calls for reopening of secondary
schools for girls, and appeals to the international community for
solidarity on the eve of a global pledging conference. *
*30 March, Kabul | New York* – The head of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) reminded the international community that Afghans must not
be forgotten as the world turns its attention to the war in Ukraine and
urged continued investment to save the lives and livelihoods of the Afghan
Achim Steiner also stressed the importance of girls’ and women’s rights in
the country. Recent decisions to bar girls from secondary education from
Grade 6 onwards is of great concern, he said, and UNDP is committed to
working with UN agencies to defend and promote girls’ and women’s access to
education and work, and to protect these rights.
“UNDP’s partnerships are often multidimensional, and sometimes we are faced
with challenges that, like girls’ education in Afghanistan, can become
fault lines,” Steiner said. “Both boys and girls must be allowed in the
classrooms because the future of Afghanistan must be for all Afghans, not
just a selected few. UNDP will continue to help Afghans to create strong
socio-economic foundations from which to grow from the ground up.”
Steiner made the comments during a two-day trip to the country where he met
with women business owners, academics, civil society representatives,
private sector, and decision makers. He also flagged the urgent need for
action to prevent spiralling poverty and economic instability.
“We reported late last year that an estimated 97 percent of Afghans could
be living in poverty by mid-2022, and regrettably, that number is being
reached faster than anticipated,” Steiner said. “And with commodities
pricing skyrocketing globally, we know that people here cannot afford to
meet their basic human needs like food, healthcare, and education. However,
I have witnessed the determination of Afghans to get back on their feet and
work for social stability.”
The first stop on his two-day trip was to meet women business owners and
members of the Chamber of Commerce in Mazar-e-Sharif. He listened to them
discuss the struggles they face in keeping their businesses afloat and the
lack of access to capital.
“The women small business owners I spoke with are tenacious in their
determination to continue to earn an income and provide for their families
and communities against all odds,” Mr Steiner says. “It is vital that the
international community shows its solidarity and commitment to preventing
further economic hardship, especially for women,” Steiner says. “This year
alone, we aim to support more than 50,000 small and medium enterprises,
many of which are led by women.”
Following the change in government in August 2021, Afghanistan is facing a
potential non-reversable economic collapse, a frozen banking system and
liquidity shortage leaving as many as 80 percent of people in debt.
This instability and the need to get cash in the hands of those who need it
most, says Steiner, is why the international community must commit to new
funding in the upcoming High-level Pledging Event on Supporting the
Humanitarian Response in Afghanistan on 31 March.
“We must get the economy back up and running from the ground up, and that
means support to individuals, their families and their businesses,” he
said. “While the world’s attention is turned to Ukraine and the ripple
effect from that war, we must also stand in solidarity with the Afghan
people. We will stay and deliver to ensure that hard-fought gains in
gender equality, health, livelihoods, and access to energy aren’t lost
during this period of hardship.”
On the second day of his tour, Steiner met with NGOs, civil society
leaders, private sector leaders, women’s organisations, and academics. He
listened to their vision for the future of Afghanistan and the pathways to
“In building a better future in Afghanistan, the country must retain its
thought leaders and young people who are desperate to create the pathways
forward in ways that benefit all,” Steiner said. “The very future of the
country must be one built upon human rights and dignity, access to
livelihoods, and one that leaves no one behind.”
UNDP leads the UN socio-economic recovery in the country under the One-UN
Transitional Engagement Framework (TEF). In October 2021, UNDP launched an
ambitious local recovery programme, ABADEI, to safeguard livelihoods and
small productive activities.
Since then, the ABADEI programme has supported 76,000 people with temporary
work; supported 25,000 small farmers and traders with market access,
benefiting over a quarter million people; including building vital
irrigation systems benefiting 105,000 people, and provided clean and
affordable energy access to 18,000 people in poor households and to 80
MSMEs through solar-hydro mini grids.
UNDP has also supported the improvement of health services by helping 3.1
million Afghans – including 1.1 million children and 780,000 women – to
access basic medical care including COVID-19 vaccinations, payment of
salaries to healthcare workers, and supporting to health facilities.
The creation of a financial mechanism, the Special Trust Fund for
Afghanistan, was spearheaded to channel donor funding into a unified
response comprising 16 UN agencies ensuring a linked up, cohesive effort to
support the basic human needs and essential services in the country.
In addition to the $4.4 billion needed to meet humanitarian needs, UN
agencies working in Afghanistan urgently require a further US$3.6 billion
to sustain essential social programmes to help 38 million people under the
UN’s Framework. UNDP requests US$134.6 million for Afghanistan this year to
support its response.
The Administrator acknowledged the financial support already given through
the Trust Fund and from bilateral partners, which has helped UNDP to
deliver on the ground and contribute to stabilizing livelihoods in
Afghanistan, but he said that sustained support and new commitments can
further strengthen the potential prosperity of the country.
“I urge international partners to commit to the continued support to the
people of Afghanistan in the upcoming pledging conference,” Steiner says.
“UNDP is committed to building resilience at the local level, particularly
helping women and girls who must not be left behind in the recovery of
Afghanistan,” Steiner says. “On the macro-level, we are committed to
developing strategies and options to address the virtual collapse of the
commercial banking sector and key central banks functions which have
paralyzed the financial system and resulted in an unprecedented liquidity
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