With the coronavirus spreading rapidly throughout the country, Afghanistan is now on the brink of economic collapse. Prior to the introduction of the virus, the Central Asian nation was host to a number of problems, most notably war, poverty, and unemployment. However, the coronavirus has exacerbated the situation, leaving millions of Afghans to suffer throughout the month of Ramadan.
The government-imposed lockdown and quarantine has forced businesses to shut down, resulting in up to six million people losing their jobs in a country where over 80% of the population live below the poverty line.
Furthermore, international NGOs have drastically reduced the amount of aid they would have normally provided to the country. Last month, US funding was reduced by $1billion over a political spat between the nation’s leader following the disputed presidential election that took place in September 2019.
As Afghanistan is a low resource economy highly dependent on international aid, the government is struggling to provide its citizens with adequate food and water security. As a result, the crisis has had a detrimental impact on the millions of poor families that rely on informal work to survive and earn a basic income.
“This Ramadan is the hardest we have ever been through. If we don’t find food, we’re fasting round the clock” said Miya Gul who, prior to the pandemic, worked at the local bazaar assisting vendors in transporting their goods.
“Last year, my income was around 300 afghani ($3.70) a day. Now there is no work, and if there is, I earn around 50 afghani ($0.66)” Gul added.
“We have to send our children to work in the streets. We buy food for whatever money they make. Our daughter Nodira sometimes gets a potato or a tomato at the bazaar. She is seven years old.”
In the past month, the price of basic necessities on which many poor Afghans rely on have rapidly increased. Prior to the pandemic, a canister of water would sell at 5 Afghani ($0.07), however today the price has been doubled and water is now hard to come by in many of the country’s impoverished camps.
The local government in Kabul have been distributing wheat, flour, rice, and oil to many impoverished families. However, with limited funding and resources and reduced aid from NGOs and donors, they are unable to reach everyone and the rapid spread of the virus is more than what they can handle.
The dire circumstances have forced many back on the streets to beg, arguing that poverty and the inability to provide for their families is forcing them to risk their lives. “Older people are patient but children do not understand what’s going on, they keep on asking for food” said Inzar Gul Safi, a resident of one of the many camps in the city.
For many in Afghanistan, the pandemic has made the blessed month of Ramadan a challenging time. Forced to beg, millions are risking their lives to scrape by a living, and without international support and a coordinated effort to combat the pressing matters at hand, many more Afghans will suffer in the months to come.
The deadly coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December, but is now prevalent in 212 countries and territories around the world as well as 2 international conveyances.
At the time of writing, there are over 4 million registered coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 276,000 deaths.
Indeed we belong to Allāh, and to Him we shall return. We ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) to keep us all safe, healthy, and able to take this opportunity to turn back to Him, seeking forgiveness.
May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) cure our sick, protect our elderly, and accept those that have returned to him after having the coronavirus as martyrs, āmīn. It is also important to note that over 1.3 million people have now recovered so far from the deadly virus, alhamdulillāh