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UN chief: Former Kyrgyz president leads Afghan mission

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UNITED NATIONS – Former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva has been appointed as the UN’s new special envoy to crisis-ravaged Afghanistan, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Friday.

Otunbayeva succeeds Deborah Lyons of Canada as head of the UN political mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA. She will be in charge of UN humanitarian operations and dealings with the country’s Taliban rulers.

Guterres said Otunbayeva brings more than 35 years of professional experience in leadership, diplomacy, civic engagement and international cooperation.

She was president in 2010-2011, three times foreign minister, in parliament and deputy prime minister. She was also the ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the United States and Great Britain.

Currently, Otunbayeva is a member of Guterres’ High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation and head of the Roza Otunbayeva Initiative Foundation in Kyrgyzstan.

UN chief of humanitarian aid Martin Griffiths the Security Council warned on Monday that Afghanistan is facing increasing poverty, with 6 million people suffering from severe food shortages as a result of humanitarian, economic, climate and financial crises.

Conflict, poverty, climate shock and food insecurity “have long been a sad reality” in Afghanistan, Griffiths said. What makes the current situation “so critical” is the cessation of large-scale development aid since the Taliban takeover a year ago, he said.

More than half of the Afghan population – some 24 million people – needs help and nearly 19 million people face acute food insecurity, Griffiths said.

“We worry” that those numbers will deteriorate quickly as winter weather pushes already high fuel and food prices, he said.

Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed since the withdrawal of US and allied forces in August 2021 and the withdrawal of foreign aid agencies due to the Taliban’s refusal to send girls to school and other human rights violations.

Afghan funds abroad are frozen, although US President Joe Biden has signed an order an appeal to banks to provide $3.5 billion of the amount to a trust fund for distribution through humanitarian groups for Afghan aid and basic needs.

The UN also requests billions in emergency aid from donor countries.



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