A year after the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s economy is still in trouble – and so are its children – The Diplomat
The debate | opinion
Aid keeps Afghan children alive, but it cannot fix a collapsing economy.
A Taliban fighter stands guard as people march through the streets on Saturday, April 30.
Credit: ` Photo/Ebrahim Norooziadvertisement
Samar* doesn’t go to school that often anymore. Instead, the 11-year-old spends half the day sewing rugs with his 15-year-old brother Zalmay*.
The economic crisis in Afghanistan means his family, who lived well before the Taliban regained power, are now struggling to survive. Sending Samar to work was an agonizing decision for his parents.
He said: “I went to school before August 2021 and now I don’t go to school [as often]. I don’t like making carpets – it makes me so sad.”
It’s been a year since the western military presence in Afghanistan ended. A year since panicked people flocked to Kabul airport to flee the country, and girls and women anxiously awaited the crumbling of their hard-won rights.
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Now more than half of Afghanistan’s population is in dire need of help. The economy is collapsing – the result of years of conflict, natural disasters, poor governance and now international sanctions. In addition, the country is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, drought and impending famine, and a devastating earthquake in June.
A Save the Children survey found that four out of five children had gone to bed hungry in the past 30 days, many of them too weak to play and learn. Faced with rising food prices, desperate parents are taking their children out of school and sending them to work to support the family. This will only add to the 10 million already at risk of dropping out, including girls who are excluded from secondary school in most regions.
Many boys and girls we spoke to in focus groups also said that they could not get medical help for financial reasons, even if there was a clinic nearby. 13-year-old Reza* told us that his little niece died because his family could not afford the treatment needed to save her life. “We lost her for lack of money,” he said.
The people of Afghanistan need our support more than ever. Humanitarian organizations like Save the Children do whatever it takes to keep children alive. But humanitarian aid was never intended as a long-term solution. This is an economic crisis and it needs an economic solution.
When the Taliban took power in August 2021, governments around the world responded by withdrawing billions of dollars in international aid and freezing Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves. A year later, they still haven’t found a way to get the money back into the country.
Without long-term funding for things like education and healthcare, children in Afghanistan have no future. They will continue to die of starvation, malnutrition and disease. Without the opportunity to go to school, they will never grow into the teachers, doctors and economists the country needs to get back on its feet.
It would be a moral failure to let another year go by without solving this crucial issue. The international community must act now – to find a way to restore development aid to Afghanistan and solve the liquidity problem.
Until they do, they are complicit in the loss of every Afghan child who dies of starvation and disease.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.