Disaster for Afghans
Afghanistan is already one of the poorest countries in the world after decades of war, destruction and foreign intervention. And now it has been facing an economic crisis since the West-backed government collapsed in the face of a Taliban takeover almost two months ago.
Afghanistan is grappling with a dual economic and humanitarian crisis. The United States has already frozen Afghanistan’s nearly $ 10 billion foreign reserves. International aid and financial assistance have dried up. This has catastrophic implications for an already struggling economy.
The Afghan economy was already suffering from very slow growth, high and rising unemployment, poor governance, widespread corruption, Covid-19 and drought. Almost three million Afghans are already suffering from drought.
This situation places Afghanistan among the top three countries with the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity in the world. Three million people in the northern and western provinces of the country are facing the terrible consequences of drought due to their dependence on agriculture.
The Taliban regime may have enough money to feed its own forces, but not enough to run a country of nearly 39 million people. There is not enough money to pay the salaries of public sector employees who have not been paid since May 2021.
Almost 70 percent of public sector employees, including teachers, nurses, doctors, hydraulic engineers, garbage collectors and others, were paid primarily by the World Bank. Their last salaries were paid to them in May, without even touching any money at the end of the previous regime. And there is no more money for them under this new Taliban regime. Public services are in appalling condition and basic health services are collapsing because they have also been funded by donor money. The education sector faces a similar situation.
All of this is undoubtedly causing more than enough problems for the Afghan people. The slow decision-making process causes a lot of problems not only for the Taliban regime but also for ordinary people. While the Afghan people are not responsible for the current situation, they are paying the ultimate price for this mess. The Taliban regime still faces three major problems. The first is international isolation. It is evident that the Taliban regime faces economic and political isolation and has so far failed to secure much needed legitimacy from the great powers. So far, no country has officially recognized the Taliban government. It may take weeks, or even months, before world and regional powers make a decision in this regard.
The second problem is the increased threat of Isis-K (Daesh) to disrupt relative calm and stability. Daesh has already launched a campaign of deadly bombardments against the Afghan Shiite population. The latest attack was carried out in Kandahar (the heart of the Taliban movement) and shows the scope and capacity of this terrorist organization to cause the destruction of human lives.
Two suicide bombings on mosques have killed more than 130 consecutive Fridays. Such attacks will create an additional feeling of insecurity among the population. The increase in attacks and instability will further complicate the situation.
The third problem is the collapse of the economy and the financial collapse. The Afghan economy is on the verge of complete collapse. Their economy depended heavily on foreign aid and financial aid. Now, since Western powers and international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank ceased their financial aid and aid to the Taliban regime, the economic collapse in Afghanistan has accelerated.
The much-needed financial aid and aid is not coming because the world and regional powers have adopted a wait-and-see policy towards the new Afghan regime. The economic collapse has caused a serious humanitarian crisis, which means even more misery and suffering for the Afghan people. Harsh winter is fast approaching and time is running out to provide shelter, food and warm clothing to protect millions of people from the extreme cold.
The Afghans are facing a catastrophic situation. The economic crisis has made the lives of millions of people even more miserable. The Afghan economy was in crisis before the collapse of the US-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani, which has faced stagnation since 2012. In fact, the majority of Afghans faced economic hardship even when the The Afghan economy was growing. They lived in poverty and hunger. Many were unemployed. Economic opportunities were scarce for the rural population.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NCR), more than 18 million Afghans depend on international humanitarian aid to survive. Sixty-six percent of Afghans live in poverty. According to the World Food Program, one in three Afghans suffers from acute hunger (33 percent of Afghans are already hungry).
More than 90 percent of households consumed insufficient food in the past week, revealed by a telephone survey. There are already 3.5 million internally displaced people. Twenty-six percent of Afghans were unemployed before the Taliban takeover; 40 percent were unemployed.
The collapse is staggering. The Afghan economy will contract by around 13% this year and a further 25% over the next two years. More people will lose their jobs and their livelihoods. More people will fall into the trap of poverty and hunger. Poverty in Afghanistan could reach 97 percent by the end of this year, from 66 percent currently, according to the latest UNDP report.
International financial assistance and aid was the lifeline of the Afghan economy. Much of this aid came from the United States. Seventy-five percent of public spending has been financed by foreign aid. All of this has dried up and therefore the economy is now in dire straits. The Afghan people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. They need food, medicine and clothing. Some countries, including Pakistan, China and Iran, are providing much needed food, medicine and other essentials, but this is not enough to overcome the humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations urgently needs to negotiate a multilateral agreement to stabilize the economy, finance appropriate public services and deal with the liquidity crisis. The Afghan people need concrete help, not just empty words of sympathy. Global and regional powers must focus on providing quick and effective solutions in order to deliver urgent aid to children, women and men who simply cannot wait any longer.
The writer is a freelance journalist.