As Afghanistan’s economy continues to spiral, as many as 34 million Afghans are living below the poverty line, says a new UN report. The “Afghanistan Socio-Economic Outlook 2023” report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on April 18 highlights the impact of cuts in international aid to Afghanistan since the Taliban took power.
The report notes that the number of people below the poverty line in Afghanistan has increased from 19 million in 2020 to 34 million today. It also adds, “Even if the UN aid appeal for international assistance to reach $4.6 billion in 2023 succeeds, it may fall short of what is needed to improve conditions for millions of Afghans.”
The UNDP report comes after the UN said that it was “reviewing its presence” in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s ban on Afghan women from working for the international organization earlier this month. The UN statement suggested that it may be planning to suspend its operations in the country.
The report also notes that Afghanistan is currently facing a severe fiscal crisis after the ending of foreign assistance “that previously accounted for almost 70 percent of the government budget.” A severe banking crisis also continues. In 2022, Afghanistan’s GDP contracted by 3.6 percent. The report adds that the average real per capita income has also declined by 28 percent from the 2020 level.
On May 1, the UN began holding crucial talks regarding Afghanistan in Doha. The participants include the five permanent UN Security Council members, countries in the region such as Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, and key players such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Notably, the de facto Taliban government of Afghanistan was not invited to participate. “Any meeting about Afghanistan without the participation of the Afghan government is ineffective and counterproductive,” said Abdul Qahar Balkhi, Taliban foreign ministry spokesman.