Afghanistan’s economy is “crashing.” Nearly four months since the Taliban takeover and Afghanistan is standing on the verge of mass starvation and famines threatening over one-million children this winter.
Covering up the frames of famished children with pale blue, gray, and pink burquas, one by one, Afghan mothers and grandmothers poured into a health clinic made up of mud and brick. Many reaching their destination after hours of walking across the washed-out stretches of Southern Afghanistan. These women’s eyes are gleaming with the hope of reviving life back into their children’s spindly veins.
As the air is growing colder and drier, many are scared their little ones might not make it to the spring.
The Tumbling Currency of Afghanistan
Over 23 million Afghans face acute hunger and malnourishment, while children in the country are overflowing in the shattering health facilities. In addition, the education system is sinking, with millions of students out of school, and almost 70% teachers are working without any pay.
Adding to a country’s already severe economic problems is the fact that the value of Afghanistan’s currency is plummeting, making poverty even worse for a populace that already has little to eat.
Afghanistan’s currency fell by more than 11 percent against the U.S. dollar just one day earlier this week but recouped most of that loss. However, the market remains volatile, and the devaluation has already had a negative impact on Afghans. In addition, the lack of confidence in the nation’s financial sector has halted most of the investments dramatically, and the borrowing market has collapsed.
The Dawning Threat: Omicron
Diesel fuel, which is needed to generate oxygen for Coronavirus patients, has run out of fuel. There are no more supplies of dozens of essential medications for patients already battling infections. Even though the health workers have been without pay for months, they still show up for work.
More than four million people live in the capital, Kabul, and only one hospital is available for COVID-19. Coronavirus cases have increased in Afghanistan since a few months ago, but the hospital itself is now in need of lifesaving treatment.
“We are not ready to Omicron. A disaster will be here.”Dr Shereen Agha
The previous government in power had a contract with HealthNET TPO, a Netherland-based aid group to run Dr. Shereen’s hospital. But after the expiration of the agreement in November, the hospital was dependent on World Bank for its funds which were frozen to the Taliban regime,
Afghanistan’s healthcare system is in a crisis of sorts, which can only function with a lifeline from international aid.
Afghanistan: The Deepening Economic Crisis
Soon after the Taliban seized power, the international community froze billions of dollars worth of Afghan assets and the entire international funding.
The Taliban have appealed to the international community for assistance since Afghanistan is in dire straits at the moment, facing an economic and humanitarian crisis, which has sparked fears of another refugee exodus.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August, major donors froze funds to end their support for the country. In addition, a drought caused by global warming also caused problems in Afghanistan.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the deputy foreign minister, said, “The impact of the frozen funds is on the common people and not Taliban authorities.” He urged the countries like the United States to help Afghanistan recover after decades of war, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR.
After the former US-backed government ambassador left his post on Friday (December 17), the Taliban regime made a fresh appeal for Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations.
Exiled diplomats of the old government and Afghanistan’s new Islamist rulers are fighting over the U.N. seat and a few other embassies abroad. But, the Taliban regime is yet to be recognized as the official government by any country.
The Economical Delima
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the United States and other Western donors have debated avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe without giving the Taliban legitimacy by removing sanctions or giving them direct access to funds.
However, aid organizations have called for the United States to move faster as the humanitarian crisis has worsened.
During last week’s World Bank board meeting, which includes the United States, American officials relaxed the economic chokehold on Afghanistan by allowing $280 million in frozen donor funding for the World Food Programme and UNICEF to be released. Even so, the amount represents just a portion of the $1.5 billion frozen by the World Bank when pressured by the U.S. Treasury Department following the Taliban takeover.
“The consequences of inaction on these three fronts are clear: Afghanistan will collapse, people will run out of hope, and the region – and indeed the world – will see destabilization increase”Mr. Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations
The Freezing Winter Ahead
Children suffering from malnutrition and illness crammed into the worn metal beds of the pediatric ward at Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar this fall. An eerie silence filled the large intensive care unit as children too weak to cry slowly waste away, their breath labored, and their skin sagged off protruding bones.
Sitting among the bony children is two-years old Madina, who let out a soft wail while her grandmother adjusted her sweater. Harzota, 50, the grandmother, while sharing her story with the New York Times, says, “We were so far from the hospital, I was worried and depressed, I thought she might not make it.”