UN report: Afghanistan plunges into poverty in free fall

Status: 11.01.2022 5:19 a.m.

According to UN estimates, more than half of Afghans are at risk of extreme hunger. Soon 97 percent of the population could be poor. In desperation, parents sell their childhood daughters.

By Silke Diettrich, ARD Studio New Delhi

Hadia is sitting on the side of the road. Hooded up to protect yourself from the cold. She polishes shoes. A camera team from the Reuters news agency films them at work. A close-up shows her hands, which look quite delicate: no cracks, a little dirty from the shoe paste. Hadia was a teacher before the Taliban took power. “Then my husband lost his job, as did my daughter and my son. We ran out of money and nothing to eat, so I went out and started cleaning shoes,” she says. “There is no longer anyone here who earns real money. Many days go by when we barely have anything to eat.”

Silke Diettrich
ARD Studio New Delhi

Hadia has now exchanged pens and books for brushes, sponges and shoe polish. Many teachers are no longer allowed to work or they do not earn any money teaching. Around 70 percent of the money for education came from abroad before the Taliban came to power. Even so, not even half of the girls in the country had finished primary school last year. That number is likely to decrease significantly this year.

However, this is more of one of the minor concerns that worries people in the country: Many people hardly know how to survive. The United Nations estimates that more than half of the population in Afghanistan is at risk of extreme hunger. Winter has arrived in most parts of the country.

Teaching was a thing of the past. Today Hadia Ahmadi has to shine shoes on the streets of Kabul in order to somehow support her family.


“No work, so nobody can buy anything”

In Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, it is bitterly cold: Icy winds, temperatures remain below zero for weeks. The winters, says Daria, mother of five, are always tough. But this year it is particularly bad: “My husband can’t find a job, he goes to the market every day, sometimes he can deliver sacks of rice or flour, with which he earns the equivalent of around 48 afghanis a day. But there are many days when he doesn’t bring any money home with him. “

48 Afghani – that’s currently around 50 cents. They still have a few sacks of coal in front of their hut for heating. They had borrowed the money for it before winter. Now, says Daria’s husband Sayed, nobody would be able to lend them any more money:

Everything has changed since the Taliban came into power. Prices are rising everywhere, but there are no more jobs.

In just a short time, the economic spiral in Afghanistan has turned inexorably downward. The United Nations has warned that almost everyone in the country could fall below the poverty line this year, with 97 percent being talked about. A hawker who sells socks at a market in Bamiyan sums up the current situation: “It’s worse than it ever was. There is no work, so no one can buy anything, everyone has lost their jobs.” Thick socks – he had actually been able to do business with them every winter: There has been snow for months in Bamiyan. But now no one even stops in front of his sock cart.

Parents sell their children for $ 300

Before the Taliban came to power, more than 75 percent of the Afghan budget was financed from abroad. Many salaries were paid from this: civil servants in ministries and schools, soldiers in the army, staff in hospitals, lawyers. All monetary funds have been frozen since mid-August and many countries are reluctant to help Afghanistan. Hardly anyone would like to be suspected of supporting the Taliban’s regime; no country has yet recognized the new Islamic emirate.

In the social networks there are always videos in which families report that they are selling their very young daughters out of necessity. “This daughter has already had to sell,” says Hamid Abudullah in a video and puts his hand on little Hoshran’s shoulders. She is seven years old. Hoshran shyly takes the scarf from her face, her eyes filled to the brim with tears.

“I had no other choice,” says her father. “My wife is sick. I need money for her medicine, I can’t even buy something to eat for the rest of the family. I have another daughter, if someone took that, I’d sell her for around $ 300 , because I have to.”

One of many: ten-year-old Qandi G. (3rd from left) was also sold by her father without authorization – to save the family from hunger, he says.

Build: AP

“It’s getting worse every day”

Arranged marriages among young girls are not uncommon in some regions of the country. But as a rule the girls stayed with their parents until they were 15 years old. Now, more and more often, fathers promise future husbands that they can take the girls with them when they are children.

Ashunta Charles, director of the World Vision organization in Afghanistan, appeals to the world community to donate more money to the country. “It’s getting worse here every day, and the children in particular are suffering,” she warns. “It breaks my heart to see that people are ready to sell their daughters in order to support the other family members. We urgently need to help the people here in this country.”

Shortly before Christmas, the UN Security Council decided that some financial credits should be available again for Afghanistan in order to prevent the worst – namely that thousands of people will starve to death.

The goal, according to the United Nations, is to support more than 20 million people this year. This is the largest relief plan the United Nations has ever undertaken for a single country.

Afghanistan freefall into the spiral of poverty

Silke Diettrich, ARD New Delhi, 10.1.2022 4:20 p.m.


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