The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has highlighted the unfolding catastrophe in Afghanistan. The very countries that brought such misery to the Afghan people have quietly abandoned them.
The UNHCR stated that “half of Afghanistan’s population experiences acute hunger. Some 3.4 million people are displaced due to conflict and many children are out of school.”
“The health care system is collapsing, fundamental rights of women and girls are under threat, farmers and herders are struggling amidst the climate crisis and the economy is in free fall.”
International NGO Save the Children noted that 19.7 million Afghans — nearly 50% of the population — are going hungry. Ten million of these are children.
Save the Children spokesperson Athena Rayburn was unequivocal: “The international community must address both the gap in funds and Afghanistan’s economic collapse by identifying ways to increase liquidity in the country’s economy.
“Until the economic crisis is addressed and rising poverty stemmed children will continue to face catastrophic levels of hunger. Aid alone cannot save their lives.”
Soon after the United States withdrew last year, the World Bank reported that a “rapid reduction in international grant support, loss of access to offshore assets and disruption to financial linkages are expected to lead to a major contraction of the economy, increasing poverty and macroeconomic instability”.
Since then, the situation has continued to spiral downward. The catastrophe in Afghanistan is a crime; an indictment of imperialism and the US’ vengeful approach to its forced departure.
Before the Taliban returned to power, the Afghan economy was 75% dependent on foreign assistance and aid, which largely ceased when the US withdrew.
The US seizure of Afghan foreign currency reserves stripped US$7 billion from the new regime, leading to increased poverty and misery. Twenty-six percent of Afghan workers lost their jobs after the US-inspired economic collapse.
UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner bluntly stated in March that “an estimated 97% of Afghans could be living in poverty by mid-2022, and regrettably, that number is being reached faster than anticipated”.
“With commodities prices skyrocketing globally, we know that people here cannot afford to meet their basic human needs like food, healthcare and education.”
Afghan people struggled to survive in the aftermath of the long and brutal war waged by the US and its allies. More than 140,000 Afghans died in the US’ war.
Trauma and psychological damage is another legacy of the West. The International Psychosocial Organisation estimated that 70% of the population need psychological support.
Relief agencies use limited resources in a failing attempt to alleviate the worst of the problems, but the West has turned its gaze from this most pressing of humanitarian crises.
Mainstream media pick up issues and drop them, depending on the requirements of political leaders and the overarching demands of “foreign policy” and capitalism.
Onno van Manen, former Afghanistan Country Director for Save the Children, said: “Afghanistan remains largely forgotten in the shadow of other global emergencies after more than 18 years of conflict, tens of thousands of civilian deaths and multiple failed peace efforts.”
When President Joe Biden ordered the rapid withdrawal of US forces, and the allies beat a hasty retreat, there were many words spoken of the “debt” owed to Afghans who had supported the occupying armies. Many were evacuated, but little is said of the 2.3 million Afghan refugees or the 3.4 million people internally displaced.
These numbers represent despair, poverty and the worst of US imperialism. Successive US governments’ policies inflicted a war upon the people, which created millions of refugees.
Afghanistan remains the world’s sixth-poorest country.
The immediate future is disastrous. Eighty per cent of households have experienced significant declines in income.
The US government instructed the World Bank to cut $2 billion in international assistance. The International Monetary Fund, US Agency for International Development and the Asian Development Bank also withdrew support.
It is not good enough for the US to use the Taliban regime’s existence as justification for vengeance, but that is what has happened.
Afghanistan is in crisis. It has been ravaged by earthquakes, floods and droughts. Its economy has been destroyed. Its people are in despair and anguish.
We look at the work of the greatest power the world has seen and feel revulsion.