Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 21 (UPI) -- The United Nations said Thursday that it's established a fund designed to give aid directly to hundreds of thousands of needy people and the foundering economy in Afghanistan.
The U.N. Development Program specified that the fund is a crisis response initiative that's intended to avert a growing humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle Eastern nation that began with the Taliban takeover in August.
The "people's economy" fund calls for more than $667 million over the next 12 months. Its chief goal is to supply fiscal aid to needy Afghans through donations that were frozen when the Taliban took over the government in Kabul.
Officials said that, so far, Germany has pledged $58 million.
"There are 38 million people who cannot be kept alive just from the outside," UNDP chief Achim Steiner told reporters. "We have to step in, we have to stabilize a 'people's economy' and in addition to saving lives, we also have to save livelihoods."
Cash from the new fund will be given directly to community groups and Afghan workers in public programs, the agency said. Grants will be given to small businesses and temporary basic income will be available to elderly and disabled Afghans.
Analysts have projected that the Afghan economy may contract as much as 30% in 2021 and add to the mass exodus of refugees who are already fleeing the country.
Last month, the UNDP projected that up to 97% of the Afghan population may be at risk of falling below the poverty line in 2022, unless the country's political and economic crises are addressed quickly.
Last week, the European Union pledged more than $1 billion in new Afghan aid.