Afghanistan still a grave humanitarian crisis: senior UN official.

Climate change and the economic downturn continue to fuel the crisis in Afghanistan, and there have been no 'encouraging developments' towards getting girls back into classrooms, a senior UN official has said.

More than 28 million people depend on aid to survive in Afghanistan where the Taliban returned to power in 2021 after waging an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul since 2001.

'Afghanistan remains the world's largest humanitarian crisis in 2023, notwithstanding, of course, the recent devastating earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria,' Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, told reporters in New York via video-link from Kabul.

The UN and partners are seeking $4.6 billion this year to assist the Afghan population.

Alakbarov reported that over the past 18 months, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by up to 35 per cent, the cost of a basic food basket rose by 30 per cent and unemployment by 40 per cent.

Additionally, roughly 75 per cent of people's income is now spent just on food.

Meanwhile, the UN continues to engage with the de facto Taliban authorities in the aftermath of edicts banning girls from attending secondary school and women from working with local and international aid agencies on the ground.

'I regret to say that to date we haven't seen any news or any encouraging developments with regard to girls' education,' said Alakbarov. 'The UN continues to advocate for this.'

Regarding humanitarian work, he noted that the Taliban have made exceptions for women's participation in the health and education sectors following the visit by UN relief chief Martin Griffiths last month.

'The health sector exemptions on female participation include not just medical services delivery in the facilities, but also psychological support, community-based health activities and nutrition. And it is applied to all females working in offices, hospitals, health centres, or mobile teams,' he said.

The situation is similar for women teachers, including in providing community-based education through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Although applicable at the national level, there are 'a lot more localized solutions' which vary...

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