New York, NY, April 20, 2022 — David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, “This week’s World Bank spring meetings are taking place at a critical moment for Afghanistan. The country is experiencing simultaneous state failure, economic collapse, natural disaster, and humanitarian catastrophe at breakneck speed. It is now home to the highest number of food-insecure people in the world, more than half the population is in humanitarian need. Leaders gathering at the World Bank spring meetings this week have an opportunity for action to drastically improve the life chances of millions of ordinary civilians.
“The IRC, alongside other local and international NGOs, are responding in 11 provinces across Afghanistan. Efforts of the US and other donors since August of last year to provide and facilitate humanitarian aid were critical to averting imminent famine, but humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient to resolving the current crisis - even if donors must step up and fill the $2 billion funding gap to save lives in the immediate term.
“From the front lines, we are seeing a catastrophe of choice - driven in large part by the sudden and almost total economic isolation Afghanistan experienced after August 2021, including the freeze in access to its foreign reserves, grounding of the banking system and the halt in development assistance. These policy choices of the international community are the proximate cause of the crisis we face today; they have driven the public sector to the brink of collapse and will push a predicted 97% of Afghans below the poverty line by June. Families are now turning to extreme coping measures to survive - children are being pushed into child labour and sold or forced into marriage because of the financial strain on households.
“The authorities in Kabul and the international community have a role to play in halting and reversing this descent. The decision to suspend girls above the age of 13 from attending school is a catastrophic step backwards for Afghan society. However, Afghan girls will be punished twice if the international community turns away. Families are already turning to extreme coping measures to survive - children are being pushed into child labour and sold or forced into marriage because of the financial strain on households.
“The international community can and should do much more to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of innocent Afghans. Action on the economy is urgently needed. The Spring meetings provide a critical platform for donors and international financial institutions to establish a clear roadmap for recapitalizing the Afghan economy, which will be central to ensuring Afghan families can survive and begin to rebuild their lives. A priority should be securing agreement to lift the suspension of World Bank ARTF funding for healthcare and other essential services while dialogue continues with the Taliban on girls’ education. At the same time, the international community can take steps to agree on a means to provide technical assistance to the central bank, build confidence in the private and financial sectors internationally, and define a strategy for long-term development assistance. Afghans cannot afford to wait."