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“What is our future? » : Afghanistan on the razor’s edge – Afghanistan

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1. INTRODUCTION

“My parents have no money, our neighbors have no money, I can’t go to school, there is no work. What is our future?

Reyhana*, a 15-year-old girl in Balkh

A year ago, in August 2021, after nearly 20 years of Western military presence, Afghanistan experienced a rapid political transition as the Taliban came to power. The takeover was not unexpected – it followed a withdrawal agreement signed the previous year by the United States and the Taliban, and coincided with the departure of the last international troops from Kabul as well as the exodus of the former president and his senior staff. The international community immediately stepped up sanctions against the new Taliban regime.

Today, Afghanistan is the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. An economic collapse – caused by the cumulative impact of years of conflict, poor governance, drought and now international sanctions – is affecting the Afghan people most, especially women and girls. More than half of the population, at least 24 million people, are now in need of humanitarian assistance. 19.7 million people regularly go to bed hungry – one of the highest figures in the world in a single country.

Behind these shocking statistics are real people. Every day, Islamic Relief teams on the ground meet mothers going into crippling debt so their children can eat one small meal a day, and fathers desperately looking for jobs that have disappeared. We meet boys who drop out of school to try to earn a few pennies to support their families, and young girls who marry because their parents cannot afford to feed them. We see an increasing number of malnourished children, while health centers lack medicines and banks run out of money.

We also see markets full of food that people don’t have money to buy. As unemployment soars, small businesses have been forced to close and teachers and nurses work for months without pay. We speak to a generation of young people who are increasingly afraid of what the future holds.

This report lays out in stark terms, statistics and human stories, how the current crisis is profoundly affecting tens of millions of vulnerable people. It concludes with ten key actions that can and must be taken to save lives and alleviate the economic collapse and acute hunger that have become an almost inescapable reality for so many.

The scale of the suffering is enormous, but Afghanistan and its people are much more than the pitiful stories of struggle that have dominated narratives for decades. Afghans are incredibly resilient and the country has enormous potential. Despite extreme hardship, the people of Afghanistan remain among the most generous and hospitable in the world, proud of their beautiful, diverse country and rich ancient culture. They share small aid kits with their poorer neighbors and welcome strangers with a cup of green tea, even if that’s all they have left.

Afghan women and men want a better future for their children and are doing all they can to make it happen under incredibly difficult circumstances. But they need the support of the world.

The international community has an obligation to prevent further suffering in Afghanistan, but its response over the past year has been mixed at best. Hundreds of millions of dollars in life-saving emergency aid have been injected, saving lives and averting – or at least postponing – probable mass starvation. However, international action and sanctions continue to fuel economic collapse and rising poverty. Humanitarian aid cannot replace a functioning economy.

A new international approach to Afghanistan is urgently needed – one that builds on the positive impact of humanitarian aid, gets the economy back on its feet and ensures people can access money, educate their children, find a job and feed their families. The Afghan people do not want to depend on aid, they want to build a future.