Many Afghan families surviving on bread and water this Ramadan
By Robin Gomes
As Afghanistan’s economic and food crisis worsens, many families and their children are having to survive only on bread and water during Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan, warns Save the Children . The charity says that the price of some food items has almost doubled since June last year, bringing more hardship to the people.
Economic and food crisis
Islam’s holy month of Ramadan is considered a time of celebration, compassion and unity, but with the country’s economy near collapse, an increasing number of Afghan families are jobless, destitute and are resorting to desperate measures to feed their children, Save the Children says.
Since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, living costs and food prices have skyrocketed, with a kilogram of wheat costing almost 45 per cent more compared to June 2021. The World Bank says incomes are likely to have fallen by around a third in the last months of 2021.
The war in Ukraine could further increase food prices and the cost of living in Afghanistan, with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) saying the country could be one of the most heavily impacted due to its dependency on wheat.
Ramadan and families
Amara (not her real name) laments she cannot provide food for her 8 children, especially during the current Ramadan. The steep price of food and lost income since the death of her husband have forced her to send her children to work on the streets.
“Most of the time the children go to bed hungry because of the high food prices,” Amara says.
Last year, Ramadan was better because her husband was working and provided money for food like meat, beans, lentils and even rice. After the death of her husband, it has been very difficult to find and afford nutritious food this Ramadan.
Muslims abstain from all food or drink from dawn to sunset during Ramadan. Each day at sunset, they break the fast with a substantial Iftar meal.
Amara notes, “It’s hard to pass the 10 hours (during fasting) without having had any good food.” She says it breaks her heart to send her children to sell things on the streets, rather than to school he but cannot do otherwise. Because of the lack of food, she says, the children are anxious and suffering mentally.
“Ramadan is drastically different for many families in Afghanistan this year,” notes Save the Children country director in Afghanistan, Chris Nyamandi. “At the end of a day of fasting, families would usually eat a meal together called Iftar, where several dishes would be shared. However, parents tell us they’re distraught that they cannot provide the usual Iftar meal for their children and that sometimes they are only eating bread after fasting for more than 12 hours.”
Nyamandi explains that even before Ramadan, many families were struggling to provide 3 meals a day for their children. They have been forced to skip meals, reduce portion sizes or remove nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables from their diet.
More than half of Afghan families food insecure
Describing it as “one of the worst hunger crises” of the world, he says each day the clinics of Save the Children are full of sick children who are just skin and bones.
He says solutions do exist but the world watches on. “International governments must provide urgent humanitarian funding, release frozen assets into Afghanistan’s economy and work to stabilize key pillars of the financial system.”
In its latest situation update on Afghan, the WFP said on Tuesday that 22.8 million people – half of the population – are projected to be acutely food insecure this year, including 8.7 million at risk of famine-like conditions. 4.7 million children, pregnant and lactating women are at risk of acute malnutrition . Only 7 per cent of people reported having enough to eat in March.
Years of compounded crises and under-investment have resulted in nearly four times the number of people in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance compared to just three years ago.
The country is currently facing the second drought in four years, the worst of its kind in 27 years. As a result, Afghanistan now has the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity in the world – this is a terrifying 35 per cent increase from the same time last year. More than one in two children under the age of 5 is facing acute malnutrition and will be at risk of death if immediate action is not taken.
Save the Children has been supporting communities and protecting children's rights across Afghanistan since 1976, including during periods of conflict, regime change, and natural disasters.