Pandemic Still Taking Heavy Toll On Jobs, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP


The Covid-19 crisis is continuing to hit jobs hard around the world, the United Nations said Monday, warning it could take years for employment levels to reach pre-pandemic levels.

In a new study, the UN’s International Labour Organization revised its previous forecast that the global employment market will make a nearly full recovery from the virus this year.

Blaming the impacts of Covid variants like Delta and Omicron and uncertainty around how the pandemic will evolve, it now projects a significant deficit in working hours in 2022 compared to before Covid-19 emerged.

“Global labour markets are recovering from the crisis much more slowly than we previously expected,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters, warning that the outlook “remains fragile.”

“We are already seeing potentially lasting damage to labour markets, along with concerning increases in poverty and inequality.”

Monday’s report predicted that global working hours would be two percent below the numbers seen in 2019, leaving the world short of the equivalent of some 52 million jobs.

Last May, the ILO predicted the working hour shortage would be just half that this year.

At the same time, the global official unemployment rate remains significantly higher than before the pandemic hit.

– 207 million unemployed –

This year, 5.9 percent of workers globally, or some 207 million people, are expected to be officially registered as jobless, which is better than in 2021 and especially 2020, but still up from 186 million in 2019.

The ILO report said the global unemployment rate was projected to remain above the 5.4-percent rate seen before the crisis “until at least 2023”.

And it cautioned that the overall impact on employment is significantly greater than what these figures would imply, since many people have left the labour force altogether.

In 2022, the global labour force participation rate is projected to remain 1.2 percentage points below the level three years ago, it said.

That corresponds to a deficit of some 40 million workers worldwide, ILO said.

Ryder warned that the pandemic had already “weakened the economic, financial and social fabric in almost every country, regardless of development status.”

At the same time, the ILO pointed out that differences in vaccine access and in economic recovery measures meant the crisis was impacting groups of workers and countries in vastly different ways.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the report said labour markets in higher-income countries appeared to be recovering faster, although some were now beginning to face problems related to labour shortages, Ryder said.

– ‘Years to repair’ –

Numerous factors appear to be driving the so-called “Great Resignation” seen in some countries, Ryder said, adding that the crisis clearly “has led a significant number of people in the workforce to reconsider the employment that they have.”

Shifts in the way we work meanwhile seem to be deepening various forms of inequality, including exacerbating gender inequity, according to the report.

It has been clear from the start that the pandemic was disproportionately impacting women, who have taken on the lion’s share of the additional care work, and also more often work in hard-hit sectors, like services and travel.

But Ryder cautioned the impact could last well after the pandemic ends.

“There are concerns that the long-Covid effect on gender at work would be a negative one,” he said.

Changes like the move towards greater reliance on informal self-employment, the rise in remote work and shifting trends in temporary work, “all risk impairing the quality of working conditions”, the report said.

Ryder insisted that only a “broad-based labour market recovery” would allow the world to truly recover from the pandemic.

“To be sustainable, this recovery must be based on the principles of decent work — including health and safety, equity, social protection and social dialogue,” he said.

The ILO chief cautioned that “without concerted and effective international and domestic policies, it is likely that in many countries it will take years to repair this damage.”

Tigray Airstrikes: At Least 108 Civilians Killed This Month – UN

(FILE) People walk about at a camp for Ethiopian refugees of the Qemant ethnic group in the village of Basinga in Basunda district of Sudan’s eastern Gedaref region on August 10, 2021. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP


At least 108 civilians have been killed since New Year’s in a series of airstrikes in the war-torn northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, the United Nations said Friday.

The UN also warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in the region, with its food distribution operations on the verge of grinding to a halt.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter: “My appeal to the parties: stop the fighting in all its forms. All people who need humanitarian aid must receive it as quickly as possible. It’s time to start dialogue and reconciliation.”

The UN human rights office urged the Ethiopian authorities to ensure the protection of civilians, saying disproportionate attacks hitting non-military targets could amount to war crimes.

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Northern Ethiopia has been beset by conflict since November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacks on federal army camps.

“We are alarmed by the multiple, deeply disturbing reports we continue to receive of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects resulting from airstrikes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region,” rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva.

“At least 108 civilians have reportedly been killed and 75 others injured since the year began, as a result of air strikes allegedly carried out by the Ethiopian air force.”

She detailed a series of airstrikes, including the January 7 attack on the Dedebit camp for internally displaced persons, which left at least 56 dead and 30 others wounded, of which three later died in hospital.

On Monday, 17 civilians were reportedly killed and 21 injured after an airstrike hit a flour mill, and on Tuesday, the state-owned Technical Vocational Education and Training institute was hit, reportedly killing three men, said Throssell.

Numerous other airstrikes were reported last week, she added.

“We call on the Ethiopian authorities and their allies to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, in line with their obligations under international law,” said Throssell.

“Failure to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality could amount to war crimes.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s World Food Programme said its distributions were at an all-time low, with the escalation of the conflict meaning that no WFP convoy has reached the Tigrayan capital Mekele since mid-December.

“Life-saving food assistance operations in northern Ethiopia are about to grind to a halt because intense fighting in the neighbourhood that has blocked the passage of fuel and food,” WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri told reporters.

“After 14 months of conflict in northern Ethiopia, more people than ever need urgent food assistance.

“With no food, no fuel, no access, we are on the edge of a major humanitarian disaster.”

Syrian Torture Trial Verdict ‘Landmark Leap’ Towards Justice, Says UN

Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet speaks from her office at the Palais Wilson on her first day as new United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 3, 2018 in Geneva


The life sentence handed down by a German court on Thursday to a former Syrian colonel for crimes against humanity in his war-torn country marks a “landmark leap” towards justice, the UN rights chief said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the verdict handed to Anwar Raslan, 58, at the end of the first global trial over state-sponsored torture in Syria was “historic”.

“Today’s verdict should serve to spur forward all efforts to widen the net of accountability for all perpetrators of the unspeakable crimes that have characterised this brutal conflict,” she said in a statement.

Raslan was found guilty of overseeing the murder of 27 people at the Al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus, also known as “Branch 251”, in 2011 and 2012.

Prosecutors accused him of overseeing the murder of 58 people and the torture of 4,000 others at the centre, but not all of the deaths could be proven.

“This trial cast a much-needed, renewed spotlight on the kinds of sickening torture, cruel and truly inhuman treatment — including abject sexual violence — that countless Syrians were subjected to in detention facilities,” Bachelet said.

“It is a landmark leap forward in the pursuit of truth, justice and reparations for the serious human rights violations perpetrated in Syria over more than a decade.”

The case was brought using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows offences to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a different country.

“This is a clear example of how national courts can and should fill accountability gaps for such crimes wherever they were committed,” Bachelet said.

“This serves as a powerful deterrent and helps prevent future atrocities.”

There have been a number of other criminal and civil cases against former officials and non-state actors in various conflicts, brought in Germany and in a number of other European countries.

The UN rights chief urged more countries to take advantage of universal jurisdiction and take on investigating and prosecuting serious rights abuses.

Thursday’s conviction, she said, “has put state authorities on notice: no matter where you are or how senior you may be, if you perpetrate torture or other serious human rights violations, you will be held accountable sooner or later, at home or abroad.”

UN Chief Condemns Zamfara Killings, Asks FG To Arrest Perpetrators

A photo combination of Mr Antonio Guterres and Zamfara State map.


The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, has condemned the recent attacks that claimed the lives of scores of residents in Zamfara State.

In a statement on Monday by his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, he condoled with the families whose loved ones were lost to the attacks.

He also called for the arrest and prosecution of the assailants and assured the Nigerian government of the UN’s support in the fight against terrorists and other criminals.

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“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the appalling attacks perpetrated over the weekend in Nigeria’s Zamfara State in which scores of civilians were killed,” the statement said. “He extends his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families.

“The Secretary-General urges the Nigerian authorities to spare no effort in bringing those responsible for these heinous crimes to justice.

“The Secretary-General reaffirms the solidarity and support of the United Nations to the Government and people of Nigeria in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime.”

Channels Television had reported that scores of locals were killed in recent attacks by bandits on two local government areas of Zamfara.

No fewer than four villages were razed in the attacks that lasted about 48 hours in Anka and Bukkuyum LGAs.

The incidents attracted condemnation from various individuals and groups within Nigeria, and from the international community.

President Muhammadu Buhari had also condemned the attacks in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

“The latest attacks on innocent people by the bandits is an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces who are well equipped to effectively confront these enemies of humanity,” he had said.

“In keeping with my commitment to tackling the monster of terrorism head-on, let me reassure these besieged communities and other Nigerians that this government will not abandon them to their fate because we are more than ever determined to get rid of these outlaws.

“These criminals will be history because we are not going to relent in our current military operations to get rid of these thugs who have been terrorising innocent people.”

UN Rights Council Opens Probe Of Abuses In Ethiopia Conflict

United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif gestures during an extraordinary meeting on Ethiopia at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on December 17, 2021 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP


The top UN rights body agreed Friday to send international investigators to conflict-hit Ethiopia amid warnings of looming generalised violence, in a move slammed by Addis Ababa.

Following an emergency meeting, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favour of ordering the probe into a wide range of alleged violations by all sides in Ethiopia’s 13-month conflict.

Ethiopia had strenuously objected to the special session and the resolution, with Ambassador Zenebe Kebede saying ahead of the vote that the council was “being used as an instrument of political pressure” and had been “hijacked by a neo-colonialist mentality”.

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The council decision came after the UN and dozens of countries took the floor to voice alarm at alleged atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence, since the conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in November 2020.

The conflict has left thousands dead, displaced more than two million people and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, according to the UN.

Deputy UN rights chief Nada al-Nashif on Friday expressed concern at growing hate speech and incitement to violence, saying the conflict could “escalate into generalised violence”.

This, she said, would have “major implications, not only for millions of people in Ethiopia, but also across the region”.

‘Alarming scale’

The EU, which had requested Friday’s special council session, warned that abuses were being committed “in an alarming scale”.

“It is essential that perpetrators are held accountable in an independent, transparent and impartial manner,” Lotte Knudsen, the EU ambassador in Geneva, said Friday.

The resolution called for the creation of “an international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia”, made up of three experts with a renewable one-year mandate.

They will be asked, among other things, to investigate alleged violations and “collect and preserve evidence, to identify those responsible, where possible… in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts”.

They will build on the work already done by a joint investigation by the UN rights office and Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the resolution said.

That investigation determined last month that possible war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by all sides during the conflict.

Al-Nashif said Friday the rights office had since continued “to receive credible reports of severe human rights violations and abuses by all parties”.

She expressed particular concern about surging rights abuses after a nationwide state of emergency was declared on November 2, with mass arrests mainly of ethnic Tigrayans.

“While some of those arrested over the past six weeks have been released, we estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 remain detained, including nine UN staff members,” she said.

Ethiopia has said that it had cooperated with the joint investigation and had launched its own probe.

“We do not see any merit in this politically-motivated… resolution,” Kebede said, insisting his country was “firmly committed to peace and human rights”.

A number of nations came to Ethiopia’s defence, saying that the country was being singled out by the council.

Cameroon’s ambassador Salomon Eheth insisted on behalf of African countries that the requested investigation would be “counterproductive and susceptible to exacerbating tensions”.

Ethiopia’s conflict began when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 after accusing the region’s dissident ruling party of attacks on federal army camps.

The Nobel Peace laureate declared victory over the TPLF but rebel fighters staged a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray and pushing into neighbouring Afar and Amhara.



UN Validates Record Arctic Temperature

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP


The UN on Tuesday officially recognised the 38 degrees Celsius measured in Siberia last year as a new record high for the Arctic, sounding “alarm bells” over climate change.

The sweltering heat — equivalent to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit — was seen on June 20, 2020 in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk, marking the highest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle, the World Meteorological Organization said.

This is the first time the WMO has added record heat in the Arctic to its archive of extreme weather reports, and it comes amid an unprecedented wave of record temperature spikes globally, the UN agency said.

“This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate,” its chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

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Verkhoyansk lies about 115 kilometres (70 miles) north of the Arctic Circle and temperatures have been measured there since 1885.

The temperature, which the agency pointed out was “more befitting the Mediterranean than the Arctic”, was measured at a meteorological station during an exceptionally prolonged Siberian heatwave.

The average temperatures across Arctic Siberia reached up to 10C above normal for much of the summer last year, it said, adding that this had fuelled fires and massive sea-ice loss.

The heatwave also played a significant role in 2020 being designated one of the three warmest years on record globally.

Last year also saw a new record high of 18.3C for the Antarctic continent, Taalas said.

The WMO is still seeking to verify the 54.4C recorded in both 2020 and 2021 in the world’s hottest place, Death Valley in California.

And its experts are also working on validating a new European temperature record of 48.8C reported on the Italian island of Sicily this past summer.

The WMO’s archive “has never had so many ongoing simultaneous investigations”, Taalas said.

– New category –

The archive tracks the world’s highest and lowest temperatures, rainfall, heaviest hailstone, longest dry period, maximum gust of wind, longest lightning flash and weather-related mortalities.

Adding record Arctic heat was in recognition of the dramatic changes in the region.

Although all parts of the planet are warming, some areas are heating faster than others — and the Arctic’s pace of change is more than twice the global average.

“This investigation highlights the increasing temperatures occurring for a climatically important region of the world,” said agency weather expert Randall Cerveny.

The creation of the new category means both polar regions are now represented, after WMO added temperature extremes for the Antarctic region in 2007.

Since this was a new climate category in the archive, the experts did not provide a previous record temperature for the region, but said they had established that no temperatures of 38C or above had ever been measured there previously.

The lowest temperature ever measured above the Arctic Circle was -69.6C (-93.9F), and recorded on December 22, 1991 on Greenland, WMO said.

US, UN Condemn Myanmar Junta Over Reported Killing Of 11 Villagers


The United States and United Nations condemned the Myanmar junta over what Washington described as “credible and sickening” reports of the killing of 11 villagers, including children, in a restive central region.

The State Department and the UN secretary general’s statements came as local media and residents said that soldiers seized 11 people from Dontaw village in Sagaing region following mine and bomb attacks on a military convoy a day earlier.

“We are outraged by credible and sickening reports that the Burmese military bound 11 villagers –- including children –- in northwest Burma and burned them alive,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday, using the country’s former name.

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The Myanmar junta, which seized power in a coup that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government 10 months ago, denied the claims.

The junta has been locked in a bloody stalemate with militias dotted around the country, fighting to overturn the coup.

The state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Friday the reports were “fake news” and evidence of a “conspiracy by local and international connections”.

‘Deeply Concerned’ 

In this file photo taken on March 18, 2018, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the Leaders Plenary Session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia Special Summit in Sydney. Mark Metcalfe / POOL / AFP


Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, a resident told AFP they saw “dead bodies lying with their hands tied, still smoking” after troops left the village.

A video posted on social media purported to show several badly charred bodies lying on the ground.

“It hurts us all… They don’t even look human,” says one voice in the clip that purports to show the remains.

AFP digital verification reporters found no evidence the clip had appeared online before Tuesday, though they were unable to identify where it had been filmed, or whether it was authentic.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Voice of Burma outlet also reported troops had seized villagers who had been unable to flee following an attack on junta troops.

Sagaing region has seen regular clashes between junta troops and civilian militia.

Another Dontaw resident told AFP that the 11 had been “arrested while they were hiding” near a monastery on the west side of the village, and had been taken away by junta troops.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he was “deeply concerned by the reports of the horrific killing of 11 people… who were reportedly shot and burnt by the military.”

“Credible reports indicate that five children were among those people killed.”

The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since the military seized power, with the economy in tatters and more than 1,300 people killed by security forces, according to a local monitoring group.


UN Urges Full Reopening Of South Asia Schools Amid Learning Loss

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP


India and its neighbours should fully reopen schools to address the interrupted education of more than 400 million children whose classrooms were shut by the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF said Thursday, with a top official warning the consequences could last decades.

Schools in Bangladesh were closed for almost 18 months, one of the longest closures in the world, the UN children’s agency said, while schools in other South Asian countries were shut for an average of 31.5 weeks between March 2020 and August this year.

“This happened in a region where there were no strong conditions for remote learning,” George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia, told AFP.

“Access to internet and devices was very uneven. And we see a severe learning deficiency, especially among poor communities and girls — because often boys are more trusted with technology.”

One study in India, cited in the report, showed that the proportion of grade 3 children who could read a grade 1 level text fell from around 42 percent in 2018 to just 24 percent in 2020.

Being out of school also led to students experiencing psychosocial distress, poor mental health and increased risk of violence. Girls were at a high risk of early marriage.

The UNICEF report called on governments in South Asia to safely resume in-person learning and ensure that students catch up, as well as improving connectivity.

“The cost of inaction would be a weaker labour force in a few years, it is going to show,” said Laryea-Adjei. “The consequences will be long term.”

According to a UNESCO database, schools in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan remain only partially open, while those in Pakistan and Sri Lanka are fully open.

The report also warned that child mortality is projected to rise as pandemic disruptions to health services have left millions of children without lifesaving vaccines.

Twin Explosions Rock UN Camps In Mali

French soldiers of the Barkane operation protect themselves in a shelter during a rocket attack at the Gao army base in Mali, on December 5, 2021.
Thomas COEX / AFP


Two explosions rocked UN camps in the northern Mali city of Gao on Sunday, causing damage but no casualties, AFP journalists at the scene said.

The early morning blasts shook the barracks of the UN mission in Mali, called MINUSMA, forcing the occupants to take refuge in shelters for two hours.

The French army reported only material damage but had no information on the possible perpetrators of the blasts.

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MINUSMA spokeswoman Myriam Dessables told AFP that two other camps in the north had been targeted with mortar fire on Saturday, causing no damage.

The latest violence in the West African country comes after 31 people were killed in an attack on Friday by suspected jihadists near the central town of Bandiagara.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France, the former colonial power in Mali, has said it will reduce its troop numbers in the Sahel.

It also said it is planning to transfer troops from Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu to Gao and Menaka, closer to the turbulent “three-borders” zone near Burkina Faso and Niger.


Two Explosions Hit UN Camps In Mali

French soldiers of the Barkane operation protect themselves in a shelter during a rocket attack at the Gao army base in Mali, on December 5, 2021. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)


Two explosions hit UN camps in the northern Mali city of Gao on Sunday, causing damage but no casualties, AFP journalists at the scene said.

The blasts which occurred at 0545 GMT shook the barracks of the United Nations mission in Mali, called MINUSMA, forcing the occupants to take refuge in shelters for two hours.

The French army said there was only material damage, but did not provide details about any possible origin of the blasts.

The latest violence in the West African country comes after 31 people were killed in an attack on Friday by suspected jihadists near the central town of Bandiagara.

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Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France, the former colonial power in Mali, has said it will reduce its number of troops in the Sahel.

It is also planning for its troops to leave Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu in a bid to refocus on Gao and Menaka, closer to the turbulent “three-borders” zone near Burkina Faso and Niger.


Without Women And Aid, Afghan Economy Will Collapse, UN Warns

File photo: Afghan women shout slogans next to a Taliban fighter during an anti-Pakistan demonstration near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul on September 7, 2021. (Photo by Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)


When Maryam went shopping in Kabul this week after several weeks cooped up at home, the Afghan mother was shocked to discover food prices had doubled — or even tripled — at the market’s well-stocked vegetable stalls.

“It’s very expensive, it’s clearly visible,” the 52-year-old, who lost her job after the Taliban returned to power in August, told AFP.

On Wednesday, a United Nations report said Afghanistan and its population of roughly 40 million people have suffered an “unprecedented fiscal shock” since the Taliban takeover and the decision by the international community to withdraw billions in humanitarian aid.

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The report predicts an economic contraction of around 20 percent of GDP “within a year, a decline that could reach 30 percent in following years”.

“It took more than five years of war for the Syrian economy to experience a comparable contraction. This has happened in five months in Afghanistan,” United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Asia Director Kanni Wignaraja told AFP.

Another UN source said that such a situation was “never seen before. Even… Yemen, Syria, Venezuela don’t come close.”

For decades now Afghanistan’s economy has been undermined by war and drought.

But it was propped up by international aid, which represented 40 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP and financed 80 percent of its budget.

That was frozen when US-led international forces left the country and the Taliban took control.

“The sudden dramatic withdrawal of international aid is an unprecedented fiscal shock,” Wignaraja said.

For Maryam, trying to buy food in the Kabul market, it spells potential disaster.

Her husband is ill, and cannot work. They have seven children. Under the previous government, she was a civil servant, supporting the family with her salary.

But the Taliban sent women home, only allowing certain female civil servants — mainly those in education and health — to return. They have been vague about whether women will be allowed to work in the future.

For now, Maryam no longer has an income.

“I have eight mouths to feed, eight people to clothe at home, everything is expensive, and for the moment it seems impossible for me to find another job,” she says, not counting herself.


File photo: Women hold placards during a protest in Kabul on October 26, 2021, calling for the international community to speak out in support of Afghans living under Taliban rule. (Photo by James EDGAR / AFP)


Added to this are the Western economic sanctions taken against the Taliban, including the freezing of $9.5 billion in assets of the Afghan central bank, which can no longer intervene to support the economy.

Afghan banks have been distributing money only in small amounts, with withdrawals limited to a maximum of $400 per week.

The economy is slowing down and unemployment is soaring. According to the UN, 23 million Afghans, more than half the population, are threatened by famine this winter.

“Afghanistan is in a humanitarian and development crisis that is becoming graver and needs to be immediately addressed to save lives,” says the UNDP report, which estimates that $2 billion in emergency aid is needed just to bring the entire population back up to the poverty line.

If nothing is done, hard-won progress made by international aid in key areas such as education, health, gender equality, access to drinking water, and employment could all be lost, it says.

The UN agency fears the possible collapse of two key sectors: the banking system and energy, which would plunge the country into darkness.

In Doha, where the Taliban and the Americans are negotiating this week, the Taliban have again asked the Americans to release frozen funds to allow the economy to recover.

Washington has not responded to these requests and has urged the Taliban to respect human rights and to give women and girls access to employment and education.

Depriving women of paid employment could drive GDP down by up to five percent, UNDP said, calling their jobs “vital to mitigate the economic catastrophe”.

In addition, there is a loss in consumption — women who no longer work no longer have a salary and can no longer buy as much as before to feed or equip their homes – which could reach $500 million per year, according to the UNDP.

Afghanistan “cannot afford to forfeit this”, Wignaraja said, adding that young Afghan women must be allowed a post-secondary education they can work and contribute to the economy later.


International Migration Rose Despite COVID-19 Curbs, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The UN voiced alarm July 19, 2021. Ludovic MARIN / AFP


International migration rose last year despite the dramatic impact of the Covid pandemic on migration patterns, including restrictions blocking many from crossing borders, the United Nations said Wednesday.

In a fresh report, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the number of international migrants grew to 281 million in 2020, or 3.6 percent of the global population.

That marks an increase from the 272 million international migrants counted in 2019, when they made up 3.5 percent of all people in the world.

And it is nearly 200 million more than in 1970, when a mere 84 million international migrants were tallied, accounting for 2.3 percent of the global population.

But the IOM stressed that there would have been another two million international migrants last year had it not been for the pandemic, which made it far more complicated to move across borders.

Covid-19, the report said, acted as “a great disrupter” to migration and mobility around the world.

During the first year of the pandemic alone, some 108,000 travel restrictions were introduced, while the number of air passengers globally plunged 60 percent to 1.8 billion, down from 4.5 billion in 2019.

Covid “undoubtedly changed the world, and it has touched every aspect of migration,” report author Marie McAuliffe told journalists prior to the launch.

“It definitely had an impact on migration. And it definitely had a downward impact on mobility.”

At the same time as international migration growth has slowed, UN figures show that displacement within countries due to disasters, conflicts and violence soared last year.

Around 40.5 million people were forced to flee internally in 2020, up from 31.5 million a year earlier.

That brought the total number of people living in internal displacement to 55 million by the end of 2020, up from 51 million a year earlier.

“We are witnessing a paradox not seen before in human history,” IOM chief Antonio Vitorino said in a statement.

“While billions of people have been effectively grounded by Covid-19, tens of millions of others have been displaced within their own countries.”