Gordon Brown warns Afghanistan is the 'biggest crisis of our times'

Gordon Brown warns Afghanistan is the ‘biggest humanitarian crisis of our times’ and ‘entire country’ faces living in ‘absolute poverty’ under Taliban rule unless West pledges billions in aid

  • Ex-PM called on global community to commit to the ‘largest humanitarian response ever’ for a single nation 
  • Mr Brown said more than half of the Afghan population is facing extreme hunger, including a million children
  • Afghanistan economy is expected to contract by 20 to 30% during 2022 after the disastrous Taliban takeover  
  • The West is ‘sleepwalking into the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times’ following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Gordon Brown warned today.

    The former prime minister called on the global community to commit to the ‘largest humanitarian response ever agreed for a single nation’ as he warned the country is ‘on the brink of economic and social collapse’.

    Mr Brown said more than half of the Afghan population is facing extreme hunger, including a million children who are at risk of starving to death.

    He pointed to UN and International Monetary Fund predictions that the Afghanistan economy will contract by 20 to 30% over the next year – a figure he dubbed ‘unprecedented’.

    ‘No country in recent times is suffering from such ‘universal poverty’ in the way that Afghanistan may do,’ Mr Brown wrote on Times Red Box.

    ‘It is ironic that when the whole international community is pledged to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – to free all the world from absolute poverty this decade – almost every citizen of Afghanistan will be condemned to that dire fate.

    ‘Instead of no absolute poverty in any country, we will have the horror of practically an entire country living in absolute poverty.’ 

    Gordon Brown called on the global community to commit to the 'largest humanitarian response ever agreed for a single nation' as he warned the country is 'on the brink of economic and social collapse'

    Gordon Brown called on the global community to commit to the ‘largest humanitarian response ever agreed for a single nation’ as he warned the country is ‘on the brink of economic and social collapse’

    Afghan evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during the airlift out of Hamid Karzai International Airport

    Afghan evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during the airlift out of Hamid Karzai International Airport

    Afghan women rally to demand jobs, food, education and better living conditions under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul yesterday

    Afghan women rally to demand jobs, food, education and better living conditions under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul yesterday 

    The women at yesterday's protest held banners reading 'we are the voice of hungry people' and 'consciences are silent'

    The women at yesterday’s protest held banners reading ‘we are the voice of hungry people’ and ‘consciences are silent’ 

    Mr Brown said the effects of Afghanistan’s poverty crisis could be felt as far away as Europe as thousands of Afghans are faced with the choice of starvation or emigration.

    He also warned that by ‘standing aside’ since the August withdrawal, the West was fostering conditions for ‘the exploitation of grievances and anti-western resentment that may come back to haunt us’.

    In order to most immediately address the crisis, Mr Brown called on global support for a 4.5 billion dollar (£3.3 billion) plan from the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which would provide assistance to 22 million of the most vulnerable Afghans.

    Mr Brown said: ‘It cost America trillions to fight the war in Afghanistan. It is not beyond our capacity to find 4 billion dollars to prevent starvation amid this uneasy peace.

    ‘This tragedy foretold cannot be a tragedy unresolved.’ 

    A woman called Saliha holds her 4-month-old baby Najeeb as he undergoes treatment at the malnutrition ward of the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital in Kabul earlier this month

    A woman called Saliha holds her 4-month-old baby Najeeb as he undergoes treatment at the malnutrition ward of the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul earlier this month 

    An Afghan woman is wrapped in a blanket as she and her family camp outside the Directorate of Disaster in Herat last month

    An Afghan woman is wrapped in a blanket as she and her family camp outside the Directorate of Disaster in Herat last month 

    A family warms up next to a makeshift fire outside the Directorate of Disaster in Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan

    A family warms up next to a makeshift fire outside the Directorate of Disaster in Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan 

    An Afghan man collects scraps of aluminum and plastic, in Herat earlier this year, in yet more proof of the country's economic and social collapse

    An Afghan man collects scraps of aluminum and plastic, in Herat earlier this year, in yet more proof of the country’s economic and social collapse 

    Tortured by the Taliban for helping SAS troops: Afghan translator abused with stun gun by captors 

    By David Williams and Mark Nicol for the Daily Mail 

    A former interpreter for UK Special Forces has been captured and tortured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Wahid, who was trapped in the country when the RAF evacuation ended, is now in fear for his life.

    The 34-year-old Afghan said he believed he would be murdered after fighters questioning him searched his phone and found emails applying for relocation to the UK, military certificates showing he had worked for the British and evidence of regular contact with colleagues in Britain.

    Former interpreter Wahid, 34, shows the scars of where he was tortured and beaten by the Taliban because of his work for UK forces

    Former interpreter Wahid, 34, shows the scars of where he was tortured and beaten by the Taliban because of his work for UK forces

    Wahid, who has survived previous Taliban attacks on his home, added: ‘They already had intelligence I helped their enemy. They bound my hands and hooded me at one stage, then began to beat me as they asked questions.

    ‘When they did not receive the answers they wanted their men used an electric stick to give me shocks and a stun gun on my neck to cause pain. It was terrifying.’

    The ex-interpreter, who has been in hiding since the Operation Pitting rescue flights ended in August, believes he was released only because he had been able to alert his wife and she had gone to tribal elders and the district governor to plead for him to be freed. 

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    The scale of Afghanistan’s food crisis has been revealed in a series of horrifying accounts that have emerged from the country since the Taliban takeover.

    Earlier this month, a 40-year-old mother was forced to sell one of her newborn twins to a childless couple in return for $104 in the hope it would buy enough food to last her family for another six months.

    Drought had forced the couple off of their farm and into a nearby city, where her husband and second-eldest son worked as labourers before the Taliban take-over in August collapsed Afghanistan’s economy and work dried up.

    This family’s plight was uncovered by Save the Children, which still has workers on the ground who are distributing what food they have to those in need.

    Speaking to the charity workers, the Afghan mother, from Jawzjan province, explained that she had given birth to the twins – a boy and a girl – around four or five months ago, shortly after leaving their farm due to drought.

    Sitting in a bare room carpeted in rugs donated by a local mosque, the woman said that all of the children’s clothes are secondhand and donated by locals.

    She had initially planned to keep both children, but was barely able to get hold of enough food for even one of them – typically bread, and sometimes milk powder.

    Her husband, 45, works as a labourer but says there are only enough jobs for one day of work in five – and the day’s wages, around $1, are enough for just two days of food.

    The second-eldest son also works in the nearby market, the mother said, pushing carts that stall owners use to carry their produce.

    But because he is young, owners often prefer to use stronger children and he frequently goes without work as well.

    With the new babies crying continually from hunger, the woman says a childless couple approached her and offered $104 to take her newborn son away.

    Initially she refused, but after several days of seeing the boy cry with nothing to eat – she decided that giving him away was the best option to provide for him and for her remaining children.

    She said: ‘It was hard. Harder than you can imagine. I gave my child away because of destitution… I was unable to take care of him and I could not afford anything.’

    Workers also learned of a second case where another mother of twins was pressured by her family to leave one of them to die because she was suffering from malnutrition – but she refused to give up on the girl.

    The woman’s 18-month-old twins are both unwell and weak. With the weather getting colder and the little ones suffering from severe malnutrition, the woman explained she can’t afford to care for her children as a single parent. 

    Earlier this month, a 40-year-old mother was forced to sell one of her newborn twins to a childless couple in return for $104 in the hope it would buy enough food to last her family for another six months (pictured, the woman holds her baby girl)

    Earlier this month, a 40-year-old mother was forced to sell one of her newborn twins to a childless couple in return for $104 in the hope it would buy enough food to last her family for another six months (pictured, the woman holds her baby girl)

    The mother said her family were forced off their farm in Afghanistan's Jawzjan province earlier this year by drought, and the collapse of the economy has made it impossible to find work

    The mother said her family were forced off their farm in Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province earlier this year by drought, and the collapse of the economy has made it impossible to find work

    ‘My son and my daughter cried all last night because they were hungry. We have nothing in my house. We have no food, no flour, we have nothing,’ she said.

    ‘My husband doesn’t send us money. (He says) ‘let her die’. Everyone was telling me, ‘We will buy her’, but I didn’t give her up.’

    Save the Children estimates that 3.2million young Afghans will be facing acute malnutrition before the winter’s end. 








    The woman's husband, 45, holds the hand of another of their seven children near the home where they now live - wearing clothes donated by others

    The woman’s husband, 45, holds the hand of another of their seven children near the home where they now live – wearing clothes donated by others

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