Afghanistan: how the country is plunged into an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis, one year after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban

The number of Afghans in need of humanitarian aid has jumped by a third since the start of 2021. This is the alarming observation made by the NGO IInternational Rescue Committee (IRC), in a report released Monday, August 15 (link in English)one year to the day after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban.

Already shaken by chronic political instability for several decades, Afghanistan is in the grip of a serious hunger crisis. HASeven before the coming to power of the talibanin July 2021, 14 million people suffered from acute hunger in the country. A number that has risen to 23 million in March 2022, according to estimates by the UN mission in Afghanistan, more than half of the inhabitants of the country, which has 39 million. economy also suffers from a major liquidity crisis, preventing Afghans in particular from withdrawing their savings from the bank.

Stopped international aid and frozen assets

After the return of the Taliban to power, the international community decided to no longer directly finance the country. International aid, which represented no less of 40% sound GDP, is therefore at a standstill.

In August 2021, American justice had also frozen 7 billion dollars held by the Central Bank of Afghanistan in the United States as financial assets, lest they fall into the hands of the Taliban. At the end of June, after an earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people in the east of the country, negotiations took place between Washington and the Taliban on the release of these funds. Joe Biden finally decided that half of the 7 billion be reserved for the compensation of the families of victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States and the other half for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, without that -it does not pass through the Taliban.

In an open letter published on August 10 (PDF), more than 70 economists gathered around the American Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in economics in 2001, call for the release of these funds. They find Washington’s decision unsatisfactory because “The 7 billion belong entirely to the Afghan people”.

A crisis aggravated by drought and inflation

“As world leaders sought to isolate the Taliban economically, their political approaches crippled the economy, destroyed the banking sector and plunged the country into a humanitarian disaster”regret the Iinternational Rescue Committee.

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In addition to the violation of human rights that it constitutes, the banishment of women within Afghan society has also contributed to harming the economy, adds the NGO. “Restrictions on women’s access to work have contributed to weakening the economy, leading to a loss of up to a billion dollars, or about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP”she figures.

High inflation – that the IMF does not quantify, for lack of reliable data (in English) – completes the picture of this particularly degraded situation, caused not only by Ihas world food crisis linked to the conflict in Ukraine, but also by a local agriculture hard hit by the drought, as described the International Committee of the Red Cross end July.

A unsuccessful fundraising appeal

“The price of some foods has doubled, including cooking oil, rice and flour” relate Samy Guessabi, regional director of the NGO Action against Hunger, for France 24. Many everyday consumer products became unaffordable for a large part of the population.

A substantial appeal for funds had however been launched by the UN at the beginning of the year, but the latter only mobilized 2.44 billion dollars, far from the 4.4 billion hoped for. The UN had nevertheless guaranteed to donors that the funds would not go through the Taliban but would be used directly by some 160 NGOs and UN agencies on the ground.

The Iinternational Rescue Committee (IRC), for its part, urge international institutions “to provide technical support to the banking sector” to help him get back on his feet quickly. Without significant support, Afghanistan will continue on this trajectory and the current crisis will kill far more Afghans than the last 20 years of war.”warns the NGO.

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