UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Former Kyrgyzstan president Roza Otunbayeva has been appointed as the new U.N. special envoy for crisis-stricken Afghanistan, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced late Friday.
Otunbayeva succeeds Deborah Lyons of Canada as head of the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan known as UNAMA. She will be in charge of the U.N.’s humanitarian operations and dealings with the country’s Taliban rulers.
Guterres said Otunbayeva brings to the position over 35 years of professional experience in leadership, diplomacy, civic engagement, and international cooperation.
She served as president in 2010-2011, as foreign minister on three occasions, in parliament and as deputy prime minister. She was also Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to the United States and Britain.
Presently, Otunbayeva is a member of Guterres’ High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation and head of the Roza Otunbayeva Initiative Foundation in Kyrgyzstan.
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned the Security Council Monday that Afghanistan faces deepening poverty, with 6 million people suffering severe food shortages stemming from humanitarian, economic, climate and financial crises.
Conflict, poverty, climate shocks and food insecurity “have long been a sad reality” in Afghanistan, Griffiths said. What makes the current situation “so critical” is the halt to large-scale development aid since the Taliban takeover a year ago, he said.
More than half the Afghan population — some 24 million people — need assistance and close to 19 million are facing acute levels of food insecurity, Griffiths said.
“We worry” those figures will soon worsen as winter weather sends already high fuel and food prices skyrocketing, he said.
Afghanistan’s economy has cratered since the pullout of U.S. and allied forces in August 2021 and the withdrawal of foreign aid agencies over the Taliban’s refusal to allow girls to attend school and other human rights violations.
Afghan funds abroad have been frozen, although U.S. President Joe Biden has signed an order calling for banks to provide $3.5 billion of the amount to a trust fund for distribution through humanitarian groups for Afghan relief and basic needs.
The U.N. is also seeking billions in relief funds from donor nations.