Eid brings little joy to millions of Afghans facing hunger | Humanitarian Crisis News

The people of Afghanistan celebrated Eid on Sunday, but for millions of Afghans, it was another day of struggle to put food on the table.

More than 90 percent of Afghans have faced food shortages, according to the United Nations. Jamal, who did not want to share his real name, is among those for whom Eid, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, brought little joy.

The 38-year-old has struggled to make ends meet as the country finds itself mired in a dire humanitarian crisis unleashed since the Taliban’s seizure of power last August.

A few pieces of bread from the nearby bakery is what Jamal was able to get for his family of 17. A portion will be saved for later with any food they may receive from charitable friends and neighbors.

“But I don’t expect that we will get much even for Eid. Who will give me money or food? The whole city lives in poverty. I never saw anything like it, not even in the refugee camps where I grew up,” she said, referring to her upbringing in refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan.

Jamal, a former junior-level government official, spent most of the month of Ramadan looking for work or support to find food for sehri (suhur in Arabic), the pre-dawn meal, and for iftar, the fast-breaking meal. At dusk. . Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

‘Worst Ramadan of my life’

Jamal says his situation wasn’t always so dire. Remember previous Ramadans: a time of prayer, spiritual reflection and family.

“Every Ramadan and Eid we gather with family and community to worship. This month and Eid have always been about unity and forgiveness for us, but this year it has been the complete opposite,” said Jamal.

“It has been the worst Ramadan of my life; not only are we starving, but there is no unity, nor can we worship in peace,” he said, referring to the recent attacks on mosques in Afghanistan.

Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada congratulated Afghans on Sunday for “victory, freedom and success” as he attended Eid prayers in the eastern city of Kandahar. But the humanitarian crisis and the deteriorating security situation found no mention in his speech.

Jamal was fired from his government job after the Taliban takeover. “I always wanted to serve my country. But I was not in the army, nor was I associated with any political group. And them [Taliban] He fired me anyway,” he said.

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Afghans break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul [Ali Khara/Reuters]

The loss of their only source of income took a heavy toll on Jamal’s family, and they were financially crippled in no time. “Since the Taliban took over, my family has not had a full meal. And this Ramadan we were breaking our fast with only water and bread. And Eid is no different,” he said.

“Last Ramadan, for the last few days, we went shopping for the children and even took the family to the last iftar dinner. But this year, the only thing we can do is not starve.”

Food safety levels plummeted

According to UN data shared during the Afghanistan Conference in March, more than 24 million Afghans, more than half of the country’s population, need humanitarian assistance to survive. Food security levels have plummeted, triggered by US sanctions that made it difficult for humanitarian NGOs to provide life-saving aid.

As the situation continues to deteriorate, various NGOs inside Afghanistan are reporting an increase in the number of families seeking help and services from them.

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According to the UN, more than 24 million Afghans need humanitarian aid to survive [File:Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo]

“We have been campaigning during Ramadan, mainly for food donation for more than five years, and this year has been the worst,” said Abdul Manan Momand, a social worker from Nangarhar province. He asked that the name of his organization be kept discreet.

“Last year, we distributed aid to about 3,000 families in one province alone, but this year so far we have provided aid to more than 12,000 families.”

Momand said many of the newer families who come to them for support are those who were once well off but were financially affected after the Taliban takeover.

“Many people lost their jobs and many families are suffering because there is no income. Many of them are also widows who lost their jobs,” he said, adding that at least one woman they supported this Ramadan had regularly contributed to his previous donation drives.

“She used to work with an NGO and contributed generously to our previous campaigns, but this year she lost her job and came to us for support. It is heartbreaking to see how families are struggling,” she added.

High inflation, widespread unemployment

Meanwhile, Afghan markets are experiencing high inflation, coupled with widespread unemployment.

“There is always some increase in prices during Ramadan in countries in the region, but Ramadan price increases are compounding the already high inflation rates in Afghanistan due to the Taliban takeover of the country,” noted Ahmad Jamal Shuja, a former government official and co-author. of The Decline and Fall of Republican Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a group of UN human rights experts on Monday called on the US government to unblock the assets of Afghanistan’s central bank that were frozen after the fall of the previous government in August 2021.

“Humanitarian actors face serious operational challenges due to the uncertainty caused by banks’ zero-risk policies and excessive sanctions compliance,” the statement read, highlighting the recent renewal of the decision. of the US government to block Afghan assets worth 7,000 million dollars.

“The international community has been trying to do everything possible, including easing the sanctions and giving the Taliban a chance to ease the sanctions…offered to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars in educational assistance, to pay the salaries of the teachers in distress, if the Taliban back down. its ban on girls’ secondary education,” said Shuja, referring to the continued closure of higher education for girls in the country.

“The Taliban are putting their ideology before the needs of a starving Afghan population,” he said.

Families like Jamal’s, once prospering on a meager income of 15,000 Afghanis ($175) a month, have felt the brunt of the economic crisis.

“Even though I didn’t earn much before, it was enough,” Jamal said. “Right now there is no income in our family. But the prices of basic goods have risen. We used to buy a bag of flour for 1,600 Afghanis ($19) and now it costs more than 2,700 Afghanis ($32). A can of cooking oil cost 400 Afghanis ($4.70). [and] Now it’s more than double.”

The only breadwinner in the family

As the sole breadwinner for his family, Jamal had worked hard to provide for his needs along with little luxuries. He grew up as a refugee in Pakistan and spent many years working odd jobs to finish his higher education.

“After returning from the shelter [after the fall of Taliban in 2001], He sold fruit and tissue boxes on the streets of Kabul. Later, I worked as a guard in a foreigner’s guest house, and meanwhile I was studying after hours to complete my degree and get this civil servant job,” she said.

“One of my brothers is a drug addict and my father doesn’t have a job either. I have always taken care of my family, and worked hard to get into a position where I could offer them small comforts. But now our life is worse than in the refugee camps in Pakistan.”

Almost 20 years after returning from a Pakistani refugee camp, Jamal once again finds himself looking for work on the streets. He borrowed some money to buy a small pushcart in hopes of getting a job pushing small produce in the market. “But there are no goods to transport,” he said. “Most days I come home empty handed.”

“It is extremely difficult to concentrate [on prayers], especially when the children are crying for food. Sometimes I feel extremely helpless, but I hope one day Allah will hear our prayers,” Jamal told Al Jazeera.

Afghans celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

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