Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of "universal poverty" which could become a reality in the middle of next year unless urgent efforts are made to bolster local communities and their economies, the United Nations development agency has said.
It said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has put 20 years of steady economic gains at risk.
The UN Development Programme outlined four scenarios for Afghanistan following the Taliban's August 15 assumption of power that predict the country's total economic output will drop between 3.6% and 13.2% in the next fiscal year starting in June 2022, depending on the intensity of the crisis and how much the world engages with the Taliban.
That is in sharp contrast to the expected 4% growth in GDP before the fall of the government.
"Afghanistan pretty much faces universal poverty by the middle of next year," Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP's Asia-Pacific director, told a news conference Thursday while launching its 28-page assessment.
"That is where we are heading – it is 97-98% (poverty rate) no matter how you work these projections," Kanni added.
Currently, the poverty rate is 72% and she pointed to many development gains after the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.
Per capita income more than doubled in the last 20 years, life expectancy at birth was extended by about nine years, the number of years of schooling rose from six to 10, "and we got women into university," Kanni said.
However, she said Afghanistan now faces "a humanitarian and development disaster" resulting from political instability, frozen foreign reserves, a collapsed public finance system, "a crush on local banking because of this," as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.