Samar* doesn’t go to school as much anymore. Instead, the 11-year-old spends half his day sewing rugs with his 15-year-old brother, Zalmay*.
The economic crisis in Afghanistan means his family, which led a good life before the Taliban took over, is now struggling to survive. Sending Samar to work was an agonizing decision for her parents.
He said: “I was going to school before August 2021 and now I’m not going to school [as often]. I don’t like doing mats, it makes me so sad.”
It has been a year since the Western military presence in Afghanistan ended. A year after distraught people flocked to Kabul airport trying to flee the country, and girls and women waited in fear for their hard-earned rights to disintegrate.
Today, more than half of the Afghan population needs emergency aid.
The economy is collapsing, the result of years of conflict, natural disasters, poor governance and now international sanctions.
On top of that, the country is feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, impending drought and famine, and a devastating earthquake in June.
A Save the Children survey found four out of five children had gone to bed hungry in the past 30 days, with many too weak to play and study.
With food prices rising, desperate parents are pulling their children out of school and sending them to work to help support the family. This will only add to the 10 million already at risk of dropping out of school, including girls who are banned from attending secondary school in most regions.
Many boys and girls we spoke to in the focus groups also said they could not get medical help for financial reasons, even though there was a clinic nearby. Reza*, 13, told us his little niece died because her family could not afford the treatment needed to save her life. “We lost it for lack of money,” he said.
The Afghan people need our support more than ever.
Humanitarian organizations like Save the Children are doing everything they can to keep children alive. But humanitarian aid was never meant to be a long-term solution. It is an economic crisis, and it needs an economic solution.
When the Taliban took power in August 2021, governments around the world responded by withdrawing billions of dollars in international aid and freezing Afghanistan’s foreign currency reserves. A year later, they still haven’t found a way to bring this money back into the country.
Without dedicated multi-year funding for things like education and health, there is no future for children in Afghanistan.
They will continue to die of hunger, malnutrition and disease. Without the opportunity to go to school, they will never become the teachers, doctors and economists the country needs to get back on its feet. More boys and girls will lose their childhoods – and their lives – to work, marriage and violations of their rights.
It would be a moral failing to let another year pass without solving this crucial problem.
The European Union and the international community must act now. Showing unwavering global leadership, the European Commission must lead a joint effort to find a way to restore development aid to Afghanistan and solve the cash flow problem.
Until they do, they are complicit in the loss of every Afghan child who dies of starvation and disease.
(*Names have been changed to protect identities.)