UN Chief calls for efforts to prevent further suffering for millions of Afghans

by IANS |

United Nations (New York), Jan 14 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the international community to take immediate action to prevent further suffering for millions of Afghans.

"We need to act now to prevent economic and social collapse and find ways to prevent further suffering for millions of Afghans," Guterres told reporters at the press stakeout at the UN headquarters in New York.

"Without creative, flexible and constructive engagement by the international community, Afghanistan's economic situation will only worsen. Despair and extremism will grow," he noted.

The top UN Official also urged the US and the World Bank to unfreeze Afghan funds, locked since the Taliban's return to power, to prevent "the nightmare unfolding in Afghanistan" from getting worse, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The US has a very important role to play because most of the financial system in the world operate in dollars and, obviously, there is a meaningful volume of funds that are frozen in the US and several other countries in the world. But the way to apply them in a way that is not diverted but really serves the interests of the Afghan people is something in which we are working hard to make sure that all the necessary guarantees are provided," said the Secretary-General.

Noting that the World Bank administers a reconstruction trust fund for Afghanistan and in December 2021, the bank transferred $280 million from that fund to UN Children's Fund and World Food Programme operations Afghanistan, Guterres said: "I hope the remaining resources -- more than $1.2 billion -- will become available to help Afghanistan's people survive the winter."

The UN Chief also called on the Taliban to protect the rights of women and girls.

"No country can thrive while denying the rights of half its population," he said.

The UN and partners launched a more than $5 billion funding appeal for Afghanistan on Tuesday, in the hope of shoring up collapsing basic services there, which have left 22 million people in need of assistance inside the country, and 5.7 million requiring help beyond its borders.

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