Afghanistan is facing an acute hunger and starvation crisis while the United States continues to hold some $7 billion (£5.5bn) of the poverty-stricken country’s assets, a new coalition warned today.A group including families of victims of the September 11 2001 attacks, Afghan diaspora communities and former government diplomats have called for the money to be returned immediately to alleviate the situation.US President Joe Biden froze the Afghan assets after the Taliban returned to power in August last year, following the end of almost 20 years of occupation by US-led foreign forces.In a populist move, he said that the funds would be divided among the families of those who died in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, releasing half of the cash in an executive order in February.But most of the money will end up in the pockets of lawyers to settle a number of claims, critics have warned.The United Nations estimates that about half of the Afghan population is suffering from acute hunger and aid agencies suggest that around 120,000 children have been married off by their families to escape extreme poverty.According to UN children’s fund Unicef, some 1.1 million Afghan youngsters are suffering malnutrition.The theft of the Afghan assets is worsening the situation in the country, leading to urgent calls for the $7bn in bank reserves to be returned.September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows co-founder Kelly Campbell, who recently led a delegation to Afghanistan, said that the impact of the economic crisis was palpable and a major cause of suffering.“There are people waiting in bread lines and very poor children with malnutrition visible in public, but there are also many middle-class people rapidly falling into poverty,” she said.“This is being driven in part because there’s no longer a functioning banking system and people are unable to access their salaries. It’s a problem that humanitarian aid alone is not going to be able to solve.“The fact of the matter is that these reserves are the Afghan people’s money. The idea that they are on the brink of famine and that we would be holding on to their money for any purpose is just wrong.

Source: Morning Star

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