After the collapse of the economy of Afghanistan, most Afghans are now trying to feed themselves and their children.
Kabul is a city that is still waiting for its new life to take shape – much depends on the wishes and aspirations of its new Taliban masters. But it is hunger that can be the worst in many of Afghanistan’s crises.
For the city’s poor, the majority, the biggest challenge is to save a few hundred afghanis, a few dollars, to escape hunger.
Millions live in desperate poverty in a country that has received huge sums of money in foreign aid. The money saved could help them, with about 9 billion dollar in central bank reserves, which the Americans have frozen to keep them away from the Taliban.
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At dawn, hundreds of construction workers gather in one of Kabul’s open markets and find their tools for a day’s work.
Every day brings labor in search of work – but very little to go around.
Major construction projects in the city have stalled. Banks are closed. The foreign currency tap has been turned off. What’s left is a few drops.
A handful of construction workers are hired. The rest are getting angry. Hayat Khan, a man, is angry at the fate stolen by a corrupt elite in the last 20 years.
“Rich people think of themselves, not of the poor. I can’t even buy bread. Believe me I can’t get a dollar and the rest of the rich people put aid dollars from the West in their pockets.
“No one cares about the poor. When aid comes from outside, those in power make sure it goes to their relatives, not to the poor.”
Hayat Khan says rich people stole aid from the West to Afghanistan.
Muhammad Anwar, who is lucky to have an office job, stopped to listen to my interviews with the building workers, and then, speaking English, accused the Americans of theft.
“In the name of God, we ask the United States to give us the money they have received from the Afghan government. It should be used to rebuild Afghanistan.”
At that moment, a Taliban official, a powerful man with a bushy black beard, intervened. He left the area telling us it was dangerous.
I had no sense of danger, but there was no time or place to discuss it. In the shadows was a Taliban bodyguard wearing American military-style sunglasses and carrying an American-made assault rifle.
The movement’s fighters are most visible in the center of the republic’s capital, which they call the Islamic Emirate. At the airport, he is dressed in an American uniform.
Throughout the city, they are likely to wear more popular traditional clothing such as shalwar kameez and dusty black turbans. They all have assault rifles.
Taliban guards patrol the streets of Kabul.
I heard last week in Kabul about the cost of the most common lamentation and the frustration of parents who are struggling to feed their children. Food prices are rising. Millions of people struggle to support their families.
The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 93% of Afghans do not have access to adequate food. That was 80 percent before the Taliban took control last month.
Markets are open all over the city, as those who managed to accumulate a few traps of prosperity in old Afghanistan sell their goods to raise a little cash, mostly for food.
I saw cars carrying people’s belongings, from expensive carpets or TVs to crockery and cutlery bars. A man was selling a rubber plant. Many were selling and some were buying. No cash. The vast markets are full of despair.
Threats to personal freedom, girls’ education and women’s right to work have been condemned around the world. But the possibility of going to bed hungry needs all its own.
Countries that want to help Afghans but reject the Taliban face a dilemma. In order for people to be able to make money, live and work for food, the Taliban must run a viable state in Afghanistan.
But for many of the United States, Britain and other countries that have fought the Taliban, it will be difficult for their old enemies to beat anything that looks like a victory.
The alternative could be worse. More trouble for the people, more refugees, more children at risk of malnutrition, Afghanistan will once again become a failed state and a land of opportunity for jihadi extremists.
A community above the city bears the marks of 40 years of war. Families who live here. The war marks all their stories.
One family is enough. Their flat was almost empty, the goods that were sold in the second hand markets to raise money for all of them to go to Pakistan.
My mother, whose name I am not going to name, was just a breadwinner who taught electrical engineering to students. They are all men, so the Taliban stopped her work, and stopped her youngest daughter’s education.
She was composed and determined, but when I asked her how difficult it was to leave her house, her voice became sobbing.
Going to bed hungry is a new reality in a country that has seen decades of war.
“I’m so sad. My heart has been burning since the day I decided to leave. How could I do that – but what could I do?”
“If we stay, I don’t think they will allow us to work or study. How will I raise my family? I can bear to be hungry. But I can’t see my children hungry.”
In a state full of corruption, his dreams have always been weak, which could not escape the departure of his foreign supporters. Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s latest crisis is about the basics of life – food, security and hope – and frustration and anger when they are gone. Afghanistan