As millions more in Afghanistan plunge into extreme financial distress due to mass unemployment and soaring prices, CARE is providing quick, flexible cash assistance as a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable. Afghanistan is in the grip of a catastrophic economic crisis that is forcing some to do the unimaginable, including selling their own children just to put food on the table. Economic measures imposed on Afghanistan are making it difficult for aid agencies to operate at full capacity and get help to those who need it the most.
Fatima*, 32, said; “My neighbor knew our desperate situation. They asked if I would sell my seven-month-old daughter to them for between 20,000 and 30,000 Afghanis (USD$215 to $315). I didn’t know what to do. I talked to my husband. We didn’t want our baby and our other children to die so we agreed to sell her. I didn’t sleep for the next week knowing I was losing my baby. Then we got a call from CARE saying we would be getting cash assistance. I just started crying. We stopped the sale of our baby. Now I can buy my children food and have some food for me as I am still breastfeeding. We will also get treatment for my husband.”
The double-punch of mass unemployment and skyrocketing food prices is forcing many to make impossible choices and close to 23 million people are facing acute hunger. The harsh winter is exacerbating the situation, with current overnight temperatures as low as minus 7 degrees Celsius in parts of the country. Inadequate housing, lack of money to buy firewood, blankets and warm clothing make the already dire humanitarian situation in the country unbearable for many.
Fatima* explained; “We are struggling with food. My children often go to bed hungry. I’m the head of the family but don’t have a regular income. My husband is sick and cannot work. Sometimes I wash clothes for other people and earn 150 Afghanis (USD$1.60) but often they can’t afford to pay me. My 12-year-old son goes out on the streets begging. Six months ago, a 5-kilogram bag of potatoes was 110 Afghanis (USD$1.20), now it’s 270 Afghanis (USD$2.80).”
CARE has provided cash assistance to over 8,200 highly vulnerable households (more than 57,000 people) across nine provinces in Afghanistan since October 2021. Close to 4,000 households have received a one-off payment of $USD179, which they can use for any of their most pressing needs, while over 4,200 households have received cash specifically for food, or through a cash-for-work program.
Deepmala Mahla, CARE’s Vice President of Humanitarian Affairs, said, “Cash assistance allows families to prioritize their needs – whether it’s food, medical treatment or warm clothes for their children. The other huge advantage of cash assistance is that it stimulates the local economy. CARE selects the most vulnerable for this assistance, including female-headed households, displaced people, child-headed households and those with disabilities.
We urge the international community to continue and step-up their support to vulnerable people in Afghanistan, including women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the crisis. The necessary humanitarian exemptions must be approved to ensure sanctions do not continue to affect aid delivery and the ability of humanitarian agencies to operate at-scale. Ultimately, these restrictions are costing lives.”
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CARE Senior Press Officer