Afghanistan Hunger Crisis Worsens as UNDP Reports 97% Of Population Could Be Impoverished

A new report from the United Nations Development Programme stated that by mid-2022, 97% of the Afghanistan population could be in poverty. A UNICEF report also stated that by the end of the year, up to 1 million children under the age of 5 could die, a severe issue compounded by the lack of food, water, and sanitation. The UNDP’s Asia-Pacific director, Kanni Wignaraja, stated in a news conference, during which the 28-page assessment was shared, that “Afghanistan faces a humanitarian and development disaster” stemming from political instability, a lack of foreign aid, “a crush on local banking” caused by a collapsing public finance system, and the “impact of COVID-19,” according to Newsweek. These problems contrast the improvements Afghanistan had been making over the past decades, where life expectancy had grown, schooling increased, access to education improved, and per capita income more than doubled. Before the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan had a projected 4% gross domestic product growth, but as instability grows, the UNDP projected that the country’s GDP will decline by a figure between 3.6% to 13.2%. These numbers are dependent on a variety of factors, including the development of the Taliban’s rule and international intervention.

Many Afghans have been forced into dire situations due to severe hunger, lack of resources, and extreme weather. The UNICEF World Food Program reported that 23 million Afghans “face acute hunger, including 9 million who are nearly famished.” Rates of malnourishment have increased, concomitantly increasing sickness rates, recovery times, and mortality rates. With limited infrastructure to keep homes warm, children are at an exponentially higher risk. In an interview with ABCNews, Obaidullah Alikhil recounted his struggle to financially support his family and ill son. After being hospitalized for 21 days due to severe diarrhea, and returning to the hospital many times, Alikhil and his family were faced with increasing medical bills. As a former tailor, the Taliban’s ascension to power has left him unemployed and struggling to find employment to support his family. Speaking with ABC, he said, “All I want from them is to create a job opportunity [for us] so our lives get better. I am an educated person. I need a job so I can serve the country. There is no job, no money.”

The lack of support and necessity for food has left many citizens in severe situations. Some have begun selling their organs, or children, to feed their families. Speaking with ABC News, Khoday Ram said, “If things would have been better, I would have let him study. But we’ve been left like this.” Ghulam Hazrat, another citizen, said the following: “I couldn’t go out and beg for money, I was not able to beg. Then I decided to go to the hospital and sell my kidney, so I could at least feed my children for some time”. 

As the situation continues to worsen, millions of livelihoods are at stake while millions of dollars of Afghan assets are currently frozen. Western diplomats met with the Taliban recently to discuss the humanitarian crisis, the first official meeting since the Taliban’s ascent to power six months ago. For the sake of the Afghan people, these negotiations should lead to some effective plans to address the crisis. The OWP will continue to monitor the situation.