Die Guardian-siening oor Afghanistan: 'n vinnig ontwikkelende ramp

The global attention has dissipated, maar die crisis is intensifying. Die somber jaar wat Afghane deurgemaak het, verander in 'n steeds donkerder winter. Die VN se Wêreldvoedselprogram (WFP) voorspel dat amper 23 million people – more than half the population – will face crisis or emergency levels of acute food insecurity before spring: die highest rate ever recorded. Op Donderdag, the UN envoy to the country, Deborah Lyons, gewaarsku that it is on the brink of catastrophe.

Hierdie jaar, the WFP’s operations in Afghanistan are expected to cost $510m; Dit predicts that it will need almost five times that amount in 2022. The economy shrank by 40% after the Taliban seized power again in August, on top of the devastation wrought by long-running conflict, the pandemic and a severe drought. An economy heavily dependent on aid and other foreign cash has had the tap turned off. The population is larger than before, making subsistence farming tougher; migration is harder. People are running out of things to sell. Food and fuel prices have reportedly soared by up to 75%. Women have been especially hard-hit.

The problem is how to prevent the Afghan people from starving while minimising benefits to a brutal and repressive leadership who have never met the needs of those they rule. No one wishes to strengthen them, nor to embolden similar movements in the region. Yet the current alternative to Taliban rule is not a return to the status quo ante but a collapse that would also offer new opportunities to Islamic State, with repercussions far beyond Afghanistan. It is already resurgent; attacks attributed to the group have reportedly risen from 60 in 2020 aan 334 hierdie jaar.

The first priority now must be for countries – particularly the US and its allies – to actually pay the UN the money they have promised. Humanitarian aid has resumed, with the US issuing licences to ease provision without removing sanctions. But with the implosion of the banking system, organisations are struggling to pay staff on the ground. Some argue that it is time to unfreeze the $9bn in frozen foreign exchange reserves and resume access to International Monetary Fund resources. But even putting all ethical qualms aside, that would only partially address the banking crisis; and it is far from clear that the unqualified officials chosen by the Taliban are capable of managing those funds. One option might be to establish a new humanitarian financial corridor, possibly through a private central bank.

Emergency aid is not enough. Development funding is needed to get the economy off its knees. In some areas, there may be room for manoeuvre. Funders cannot support schools when girls are prevented from attending. But they could resume paying teachers in provinces where older girls are able to study. Intussen, those most at risk in Afghanistan must be helped to begin new lives elsewhere. Western countries that encouraged women to work in sectors such as policing are being disgracefully slow to offer them a home now their professions have put them at risk.

Shamefully, the west is less likely to be stirred to action by the desperation of Afghans than by the fear that it may drive them to migrate and by domestic security concerns. When Ms Lyons warned of the dangers now facing Afghanistan, she also observed that its people feel abandoned. It is hard to disagree with their assessment.

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