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Afghans are bracing for a winter many fear will be even worse than the last

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KABUL — Every few weeks, 50-year-old Mari Jaan stands in long lines with hundreds of other Afghans. There she waits for small items such as a jug of cooking oil, a bag of flour, lentils and salt.

Even after she collects this load, her bag is light and the load at home is getting heavier and heavier.

“Electricity, water, everything was cut off,” says Mari Jaan. Her husband has been unemployed and ill for most of the last year. “We couldn’t afford to pay the bills without him.”

But what she really worries about is the approaching winter.

“We are not ready. No coal, no wood. Not enough to eat,” the center run by the World Food Programme.

Claire Harbage/NPR

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NPR

Women wait outside a distribution center where the World Food Program supplies food in October.

When the Afghan government collapsed last year and the Taliban came to power, it caused a major humanitarian crisis. of Afghans have lost their jobs and income.

These days, over 90% of Afghans do not have enough food. According to the United Nations WFP and the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan — and the hardships the family endured last year feel insurmountable this year.

“When we talk to people at distribution sites, everyone says, ‘Last winter was tough, but we don’t know how we’ll survive the coming winter,'” said a Kabul-based WFP spokesperson. Philippe Kropf says.

Hunger hits worst in winter in Afghanistan

This week, The International Committee of the Red Cross reported Child malnutrition cases in hospitals in Afghanistan are 90% higher this year than in 2021. Aid groups also report a 55% increase in the number of children under the age of five in the children’s hospital in Kabul they support. People are being treated for pneumonia as they struggle to keep their homes warm.

Certain operations, such as construction, come to a temporary halt during colder months, leaving Afghan day laborers without a steady income during those times.

“Construction sites usually freeze in the winter, so many of us in construction are out of work and unable to earn money during the winter,” says 32-year-old Shahzaman Mohammadi. food line.

The country’s crop, especially wheat, has been far below expectations this year, partly because of years of drought and partly because of rising fuel and fertilizer costs. All this means that many families in rural areas may struggle to survive the winter on subsistence farming alone. support may not be available.

Wobbly, barely subsistence households may have to make the same tough choices this year forced to be the last Winter: Spend what little money you have on food, coal, and firewood to keep warm.

Aid organizations are also having a tough time this year, said Kropf.

Oil, salt, flour and lentils are being loaded into wheelbarrows at the WFP distribution center in Kabul.

Claire Harbage/NPR

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NPR

Oil, salt, flour and lentils are being loaded into wheelbarrows at the WFP distribution center in Kabul.

of WFP says more than $1 billion needed Additional funds to keep operations in Afghanistan going through the winter.The war in Ukraine provoked a large-scale war food surge When energy prices This year it reports.of aid organizations food basket About 20% higher than last year.

Changes in the face of hunger

In Kabul, it is not uncommon to find former teachers, military personnel and even government employees waiting for cash or food aid.

“The hunger landscape is changing in Afghanistan,” says Klopp. “With jobs lost and the economy in a meltdown, we are seeing people queuing for food aid who they never believed would be queuing for food aid. rice field.”

Kudai Nazar, 41, is one of them.

For years, he repaired punctures for a living and was able to support a family of nine. However, that financial stability ended shortly after the government collapsed and he lost his job.

“I had to cut back quite a bit to get by,” Nazar says as he walks through the food line. “I used to eat meat several times a week, but now I wish I could eat meat several times a month.”

He doesn’t blame the new government for turning his life upside down. Few people stand in line at WFP distribution centers. Instead, many believe that the international community has a problem.

“Before the arrival of the Islamic Emirate, life was much better,” Nazar says, referring to the Taliban government. “The sanctions imposed on this government have affected us all.”

Certain Taliban leaders currently in government have long faced international sanctions, but the country and its institutions have not. An economic factor that has turned the lives of so many Afghans upside down has to do with the international perception of the Taliban.

A line of people meanders through the courtyard of a food distribution center in Kabul, October.

Claire Harbage/NPR

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NPR

A line of people meanders through the courtyard of a food distribution center in Kabul, October.

US involved the Taliban Peace negotiations under the Trump administration, but neither Washington nor any other country recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The United States and others have deauthorized Afghanistan’s central bank, blocking the country’s access to the international banking system and the country’s $9 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

The Biden administration $3.5 billion released Addressing critical humanitarian needs through the creation of foundations aimed at bypassing the Taliban, however, governments and financial institutions remain leery of resuming their own programs.

After declining NPR’s repeated requests for interviews, an IMF spokesperson sent the following statement: .”

Against this backdrop, millions of Afghans and aid organizations are preparing for a harsh winter.

Construction worker Mohammadi said: “We are worried. We know it’s going to be tough. It’s all in God’s hands now.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. For more information, please visit https://www.npr.org.

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