Sunday, December 5

‘Our children are hungry’: economic crisis drives Afghans to despair | Global development


ANDasemeen sits in the back of an open trailer with a bundle of her family’s old clothes wrapped in scarves and some used notebooks already filled with a child’s handwriting. The vehicle stops at a busy roundabout in the center of Mazar-e-Sharif, a city that until the Taliban takeover last month was known as the economic powerhouse of northern Afghanistan.

Now, it is a scene of desperation when the economic crisis in Afghanistan sends ordinary people like Yasemeen to the streets to sell their last possessions.

As Yasemeen lifts the hem of her burqa slightly to get off the trailer, the youths quickly gather to help unload the goods. They may be rare, but his only hope is to sell them to earn enough money to send family members to Kabul to find work. Her husband, a painter and decorator, has been unemployed for months.

“Our men are sitting at home and our children are hungry,” says Yasemeen, who only agrees to give her first name.

His family is just one of many who have taken to the streets to try to raise much-needed money. On the side of the road it seems as if entire houses have been emptied onto the asphalt, where teapots, cushions, books and teddy bears were hastily put up for sale.

A second-hand market where people sell their worldly belongings in Mazar-e-Sharif.
A second-hand market where people sell their worldly belongings in Mazar-e-Sharif. Photograph: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, concern has grown over the financial collapse in Afghanistan. With banks closed for weeks and ATMs out of cash, even Afghans with savings have been unable to get their money. Fear of the new order on the streets, where Taliban fighters now patrol, has made many people decide to spend more time at home, forcing shops and restaurants to close.

In the gap between the old government and the new Taliban administration, many state employees are not being paid. Even before the Taliban took control of the country, roughly half the population, 18 million people, depended on humanitarian aid to survive, according to the United Nations.

Following the Taliban takeover, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. The new level of economic hardship is clearly visible on the streets of Mazar-e-Sharif.

On a dusty strip of asphalt between two busy lanes of traffic, Haji Nader, 70, sits next to a pile of kitchen utensils strewn on a dusty cloth. He buys his assets from families who need money for food or who are trying to raise capital to flee the country, he says.

“These things used to belong to families who wanted to go to Turkey, Europe or Canada. A lot of people are trying to leave now, ”Haji says under the shade of an umbrella. “The new government should create jobs for citizens because the people are very poor. You see them here trying to sell their stuff just so they can buy four or five pieces of bread. “

Afghanistan’s fragile economy depends on foreign aid. The World Bank and the IMF stopped financing their projects in the country in response to the Taliban taking control of the capital.

“We are deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact on the country’s development prospects, especially for women,” World Bank spokeswoman Marcela Sánchez-Bender told CNN Business after the insurgent group took over Kabul.

But many Afghans believe that isolating Afghanistan from international economic support will affect ordinary people more than the Taliban. According to the World Bank, external economic support covers 75% of public spending. Government employees, such as teachers and nurses, already say that the new Taliban administration is not paying them, that it has not yet announced a formal government structure.

“I don’t care if the Taliban force me to wear a burqa. I’m Afghan, I wear a burqa and hijab anyway, “says Shaparak, a mother of 10, adding:” The problem now is that no one in this country has a job. “

She is chatting with some friends at a small store that sells hairspray, buttons, teapots, and scarves. The store’s owner, Maryam, 34, says business has been slow for several months and has taken a significant hit since the Taliban took control of the city on August 14, the day before the group take control of Kabul.

“The United States and other countries only took the rich with them. The rest of us are still here, they left us in poverty, ”says Maryam.

Like many women, she is concerned about what kinds of new laws the Taliban are going to implement and how they will influence women’s lives. However, she does not plan to close her store and she has not changed the way she dresses.

“If the Taliban prevent women from working, maybe we will oppose them, because we have to work. Who wouldn’t want to relax at home with enough money, without having to work? But I work for my son, I have to work, ”he says.


www.theguardian.com

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