Taliban Receives More than One Billion USD as Humanitarian Aid, But the People Starve Due to Poverty

After the fall of the country to the Taliban, the United States blocked Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves and The Taliban government does not have access to International Banks. This caused Afghanistan to face a liquidity crisis and the Afghani currency has lost its value against the dollar. However, during the last seven days, the fourth aid package of 40 million dollars from the United Nations has reached to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, people are very worried about the continuation of poverty and hunger. Before this, the World Food Programme had also said that more than 97 percent of the people of Afghanistan are living below the poverty line. During the course of last one year, the international community, under the pretext of humanitarian aid has donated more than one billion and 593 million dollars, but there is no accountability mechanism on how the Taliban spends the money while the people are starving due high rate of poverty and unemployment.

The Central Bank of Afghanistan, under the management of the Taliban, announced that they received 40 million dollars on Tuesday, October 17. A day before, another package of 40 million dollars had arrived in Kabul too. However, only during the last seven days, four packages of 40 million dollars in cash have arrived in Kabul. Since last year, 16 packages worth 40 million dollars and more than 32 packages worth 32 million dollars have been received by the Afghanistan government. According to the statistics of the central bank, the total of these cash donations has reached more than one billion and 593 million dollars.

Last year, the United Nations said that until the end of March 2022, they will help the people of Afghanistan with about 20 million dollars in cash every week; however, some sources had told Hasht-e Subh Daily that cash donations may increase.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said that this amount of cash is kept in a private commercial bank in Kabul and will not be given to the Taliban; while, the Taliban have not said anything in this regard so far. The central bank under Taliban management has said that it welcomes the entry of foreign currency into the country legally and asks the international community to do their humanitarian assistance through the banking sector.

The citizens of Afghanistan are concerned about how this money will be spent and ask that although there are too much International and humanitarian aid and millions of dollars that have come to Afghanistan every week, poverty, hunger, unemployment, and the price of raw materials is increasing day by day. They say these aids have no impact on the normal living conditions of the citizens. According to them, there is still no clarification about the amount of money spent, and the source of this aid is also unknown to the Afghan people.

On the other hand, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday, November 08 that compared to September the value of the Afghani currency against the dollar has increased by 1.5%. While one American dollar is currently traded between 88.45 and 88.55 in the Afghan currency market; since the price of the dollar against Afghani was 88.66 last month.

Before this, the Office of the Special Inspector General of the United States for the reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) had also spoken about the use and source of these funds. According to the report of the special inspector, the US government is blocking the way of this institution’s investigation about the 1.1 billion dollars in cash aid that was sent to Afghanistan after the Taliban took over. John Sopko, the special inspector for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, said that for the first time in his life, his office was unable to provide a report on the US government’s spending in Afghanistan due to the lack of cooperation of several government agencies.

Sopko added that the US Agency for International Development and the Ministry of Treasury of this country refused to provide information about the 1.1 billion dollars in cash that was sent to Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban, and the US State Department did not give them the desired information either. Based on SIGAR’s report, the US Department of International Development and the US State Department has said that the ongoing US aid is humanitarian and is not part of the budget that SIGAR oversees. Meanwhile, the United Nations has not yet reported the source of this budget clearly, and there are concerns that this cash has been given to the Taliban.

However, some citizens of the country confirm that they are fed up with the continued poverty and hunger in the country. These citizens say that the influx of millions of dollars in cash to Afghanistan has not had a positive impact on their lives, their job opportunities and income are still lost and no attention is paid to these areas. According to these citizens, the Taliban act in a “tasteful, ideological and ethnic” way in distributing aid and dealing with people.

Zabihullah Sais (pseudonym) is one of the shopkeepers in Kabul city. Speaking Hasht-e Subh Daily says that the purchasing power of the people has decreased drastically from last year. According to him, the majority of customers who come to him cannot afford to buy more than one bushel of flour, while in the past years, his customers could buy several items at the same time.

At the same time, the majority of citizens are struggling with extensive problems due to continued unemployment and lack of access to economic resources for more than a year. They believe that the money donated by the international community comes in the name of the people of Afghanistan, but the citizens do not know who has benefited from it and who is spending it. According to them, with the arrival of winter, they will face too many problems; thus, none of them will use these aids except the “project takers” and organizations aligned with the Taliban. One of these citizens, who is fed up with the situation of unemployment and destitution, said to Hasht-e Subh Daily: “Those who are in this land and are not Talib are ruined.”

However, Azarakhsh Hafizi, an expert on economic issues, talking to Hasht-e Subh Daily, believes that: “The aid that has been provided in the last 14 months has caused a balance in the current balance and has managed to keep the value of the Afghani currency stable to a certain extent. It is providing the regime’s expenses and facilitates cash flow. In the absence of this money, the financial economy of Afghanistan would collapse quickly and the lack of dollars would disrupt the flow of cash, the Afghani rate would decrease against foreign currencies, and the import of raw materials would suffer; as a result, famine, prices, and people’s livelihood problems would be more than there is now.

Mr. Hafizi adds that the manner of spending this money is not clear and it has not been used to finance development and poverty alleviation projects, there is no doubt that the Taliban have taken advantage of it to consolidate their authority. Because this money is used in their areas of influence.

People are worried about the clarification of the United Nations Aids because 19 million citizens of the country are facing acute hunger during the pouring of this aid. From this aid, six million are “one step away from famine”. Earlier, on Saturday, October 15, Wahid Amani, the World Food Program (WFP) spokesperson in Afghanistan, had a conversation with Hasht-e Subh Daily, and said that if immediate aid is not given to these six million people, the danger of famine is certain and their situation is dire.

In addition, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also said that extreme poverty in Afghanistan has increased from 47% to 97% in three years. This institution has argued that the decrease in incomes, the increase in prices, and the liquidity crisis have contributed to the spread of poverty.

Despite millions of dollars flown to Afghanistan; while, the country has fallen six places in terms of access to food compared to last year, as per the latest report of the global hunger index, “this year Afghanistan has been ranked 109th out of 121 countries in the world, while last year this country was ranked 103rd.”

Amin Kawa-Senior Reporter and Analyst, Hasht-e Subh Daily