COVID-19’s Impact on Poverty in Afghanistan

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SAN DIEGO, California — Political collapse, fallen financial networks and the break-in banking structures have put COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Afghanistan on the backburner. Just one month after the Taliban shifted back into power, conditions of basic human necessities are worsening in the country causing an immediate call to action by several international organizations.

Before the Pandemic

According to Afghanistan Multidimensional Poverty Report from 2019, 45.47% of Afghanistan residents were food secure, 74.81% of women were attending school, 37.73% had access to water and almost half of the population had access to necessary sanitation tools. Overall, the report shows that nearly 52% of all Afghanistan’s population live multidimensionally poor.

These numbers may seem severe. However, due to COVID-19, 72% of Afghanistan’s people now live in poverty. With the recent and abrupt power shift by the Taliban’s political takeover, these numbers are drastically increasing.

With 20 years of humanitarian work in Afghanistan, conditions around poverty and its linked Sustainable Development Goals were improving with an increase in life expectancy “by nine years and the
average number of years of schooling by six to 10 years,” according to the UNDP. The biggest example of this was the increase in women’s presence in the workforce and educational establishments. UNDP reports in the press conference that women make up 70% of enterprises in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s Effect on Poverty in Afghanistan

Currently, the UNDP predicts that if the situation continues to increase, with little help from outside agencies, Afghanistan could reach a poverty rate of 97%. Another major concern was the increase in internally displaced persons which is currently at just over half a million residents from this year alone. Overall the country has about 3.5 million internally displaced persons and these numbers are expected to increase as conflict, political and economic turmoil and inflation rise.

The World Food Programme reports that 22.8 million people are food insecure, including those displaced by conflict throughout 2021. This combined with 72% of its population in poverty can create a recipe for multidimensional poverty, which is plaguing Afghanistan as the Taliban crumbles past humanitarian efforts.

As of October 2021, only 6.4% of Afghanistan’s population has been fully vaccinated from COVID-19. When the Taliban took over in mid-August the vaccination rates have dropped by 80%, creating further economic uncertainty and strain on an already collapsing health system.

The biggest risk Afghanistan is facing when talking about poverty and development is the recession of women’s rights in the country. The Ministry of Women’s affairs is replaced with “guidance ministry” by the Taliban. This step backward would plummet the economy as most of its enterprises are women-run. According to the World Food Programme, women and children are the most vulnerable groups for undernourishment, food insecurity and displacement.

What’s the World Doing About It

As local and national infrastructure collapses with more and more conflict, poverty is becoming a global humanitarian crisis. Afghanistan’s economy is sufficiently sustained financially through loans from various organizations and nations. The World Bank reports that lending for Afghanistan during the 2021 fiscal year is $784 million. Since the Taliban takeover, that number is increasing every day.

In September 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Council increased its aid to Afghanistan by 33 million CHF making it a total of 60 million CHF total. 

The UNDP projects that Afghanistan’s GDP will drop between 3.6% and 13.2% next year. The U.N. is “seeking for more than $600 million dollars” to help keep the economy. The aid will be helping 11 million people in Afghanistan. Their aim is to help continue the function of basic essential services.  

– Ali Benzerara
Photo: Flickr

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