The United Nations is appealing for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to the 183 million most vulnerable people across 63 countries -- led by a tripling of its program in Afghanistan, where "needs are skyrocketing."
In its annual overview of future needs, published on December 2, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that more than 24 million people in Afghanistan -- 65 percent of the country's population -- will require life-saving assistance, including around 9 million people expected to be on the brink of famine.
The war-torn country is in the grip of multiple crises that have been exacerbated since the Taliban toppled the internationally backed government in Kabul in mid-August, including severe food insecurity caused by drought.
After the Taliban takeover, U.S. financial sanctions and the abrupt withdrawal of most foreign aid and development support have sent the war-torn country’s economy into free fall, while Afghan central bank reserves held abroad have been frozen.
As a result, UN agencies and their partners seek $4.5 billion to help the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan in 2022 -- tripling its request from a year ago.
"We are in the business in the UN of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the UN system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy," OCHA head Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.
"The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services," Griffiths said, adding: "I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month."
According to OCHA’s Global Humanitarian Overview report, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Sudan are the four other major crises requiring the most funding next year.
It estimated that a total of 274 million people worldwide would need some form of emergency assistance -- up 17 percent on an already record-breaking figure in 2021.
The $41 billion required for the most vulnerable people worldwide is double what was requested just four years ago, as famine remains a "terrifying prospect" for 45 million people living in 43 countries amid extreme weather caused by climate change.
“The climate crisis is hitting the world’s most vulnerable people first and worst. Protracted conflicts grind on, and instability has worsened in several parts of the world, notably Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Afghanistan,” Griffiths said.
“The pandemic is not over, and poor countries are deprived of vaccines.”
In 2020, donors provided more than $17 billion for projects in last year’s Global Humanitarian Overview from OCHA. The money represented less than half of the funding requested by the UN.