Afghanistan must be given access to frozen funds in the face of a severe humanitarian crisis following the takeover of power by the hardline Taliban, the UN said on Thursday.
"The function of Afghanistan's Central Bank must be preserved and assisted, and a path identified for conditional release of Afghan foreign currency reserves," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in New York.
This is essential to avoid economic collapse and allow humanitarian assistance, he said.
Many of the funds are frozen in the United States.
At the same time, Guterres called on the Taliban to respect the rights of women and girls and not to exclude them from the labour market or from schooling.
Aid organizations have massive difficulties in bringing money to Afghanistan. With the Taliban takeover, international remittances to the country through the SWIFT system were suspended.
Billions of dollars in reserves parked abroad by the Afghan Central Bank were also frozen, thus stopping regular cash deliveries to the country. Cash withdrawals were massively restricted as a result.
At the end of December, the UN and the US agreed to exemptions from the sanctions regime in view of the worsening humanitarian crisis.
UN aid to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries with Afghan refugees will cost at least 5 billion dollars this year. This is the largest humanitarian appeal the UN ever made for a country. That is how much money the UN needs to help more than 27 million people.
According to UN figures, 4.7 million people in Afghanistan are likely to suffer from severe malnutrition this year, 3.9 million of them children, while 131,000 children are at risk of starvation without additional aid.