The UNDP says prolonged drought, COVID-19 pandemic and political upheaval could cause Afghanistan’s poverty rate to soar to 97 percent by mid-2022.

About 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population may sink below the poverty line unless the country’s political and economic crises are addressed, the United Nations has warned.

In a report released on Thursday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the poverty rate could increase by up to 25 percent as a result of the contraction of Afghanistan’s real gross domestic product (GDP).

Even before the Taliban’s rapid takeover last month, Afghanistan was heavily aid-dependent – with more than a third of the country’s GDP drawn from foreign funding.

“We are facing a full-on development collapse on top of humanitarian and economic crises,” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

“Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. This analysis suggests that we are on course for rapid, catastrophic deterioration in the lives of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people,” she added.

Earlier this week, international aid agencies warned of an “impending humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan, with medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) saying the country’s vulnerable healthcare system was facing a “potential collapse”.

The UN has warned that 18 million people in Afghanistan are facing a humanitarian disaster.

The UN appealed for almost $200m in extra funding for life-saving aid in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s seizure of power resulted in the exodus of aid workers and subsequent funding cuts.

According to the report, a combination of factors could cause Afghanistan’s baseline poverty rate, now at 72 percent, to balloon.

The factors include a prolonged drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an upheaval caused by the current political transition.

“A transition to new authorities, a pandemic, a drought, an oncoming winter season – each of these on their own would already pose a major challenge. Taken together, they form a crisis that demands urgent action,” said Wignaraja.

In response, the UNDP proposed a package of interventions, including essential services and basic income, aimed to support close to nine million vulnerable people, especially women and girls.

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