Gordon Brown: Afghanistan is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time

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  • Gordon Brown
    Former prime minister of the United Kingdom (born 1951)

The West is “sleepwalking into the the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times” following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Gordon Brown has said.

Writing for The Times Red Box, 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 said.

“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.”

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.”

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