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UN urges nations to increase aid to restore Afghanistan’s economy

The UN chief has urged nations to greatly boost humanitarian aid for millions of Afghans living in “a frozen hell” and release nearly $9 billion in frozen assets to pull Afghanistan’s economy back from the brink of a collapse that could set off a mass exodus of people fleeing the country.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that liquidity must be urgently restored to the Afghan economy.

He said that means freeing up the country’s frozen currency reserves, re-engaging with its Central Bank and finding other ways to inject money, including allowing international funds to pay the salaries of doctors, teachers, sanitation workers, electricians and other civil servants.

“Time is of the essence,” Guterres told the Security Council. “Without action, lives will be lost, and despair and extremism will grow.”

Guterres said the World Bank’s reconstruction trust fund for Afghanistan transferred $280 million last month to the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the World Food Program.

He said the remaining $1.2 million should be released urgently to help Afghans survive the winter.

Deborah Lyons, the UN special representative for Afghanistan, told the council that the more than $4.4 billion humanitarian appeal the UN launched two weeks ago for Afghanistan, the largest in the UN’s history for a single country, “is roughly the same amount that donors spent on the entire operating budget of the government.”

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