KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the European Union (EU) launched a US $16.9 million livelihoods recovery initiative today, to safeguard women’s livelihoods and women-led small businesses. Its objective is to prevent the collapse of the local economy and systems supporting basic human needs in Afghanistan.
“Leaving no one behind is a key principle of the EU’s engagement in the world. We said it many times: we will not abandon the Afghan people,” said Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen. “Today, we are demonstrating what we have said many times: we will not abandon the Afghan people. I am pleased that we are addressing basic human needs and supporting livelihoods under the parameters clearly set out by the Foreign Affairs Council. The projects work on health, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and education, in particular for women and girls. We are also supporting income generating activities, food security and local markets. We have reacted quickly to alleviate the suffering of the population and preserve a future for the Afghan people, especially women and youth.”
The livelihood support initiative is part of the ABADEI, a UN response to the crisis in Afghanistan which aims to benefit more than eight million people over the next two years, including over 23,400 entrepreneurs.
“We thank the European Union for its generous support towards our efforts to help women entrepreneurs sustain their small businesses which form the bedrock of local economies in Afghanistan,” said UNDP Resident Representative in Afghanistan Abdallah Al Dardari.
UNDP’s latest “Socio-Economic Outlook for Afghanistan 2021-2022” projects that restrictions on women’s employment can reduce Afghanistan’s GDP by an additional 5 percent.
The initiative funded by the EU will offer women in the formal and informal economy access to grants and skills training, to help stabilize their businesses, improve production, while simultaneously contributing to local market growth. Around 80 percent of economic activity in Afghanistan is informal, and women account for over 71 percent of the workforce, in the non-agricultural informal employment sector.
A rapid economic appraisal released by UNDP in September 2021 projected that up to 97 percent of the population may be at risk of falling below the poverty line by 2022, unless a response to the country's political and economic crisis is urgently launched.
The nominal GDP of the country is likely to contract by 20 percent within a year from US $20 billion, in 2020, to about US $14 billion, if urgent corrective action is not taken, according to the recently released “Socio-Economic Outlook for Afghanistan 2021-2022.” Annual per capita income has declined from US $650 in 2012 to US $500 in 2020 and is expected to drop precipitously to US $350 next year, according to the report.
“We call on other donors to urgently step up their funding support to preventing the collapse of the people’s economy in Afghanistan,” added Abdallah al Dardari. “The fall of small women-led enterprises will speed up the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy. We must act fast.”
The ‘ABADEI’ initiative, which connotes community resilience, will see 13 UN agencies, including UNDP, and non-governmental organizations supporting community-level solutions to complement ongoing humanitarian interventions. ABADEI activities, such as cash-for-work and cash-for-business, have already created 36,000 paid workdays for people in need from vulnerable households in Mazar, Kunduz and Herat. These emergency employment schemes – implementing public works – are rapidly expanding to support basic human needs in Badghis, Farah and other provinces.