Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

As winter approaches, Afghan widow Kubra needs to get fuel to heat the single room where eight family members live in central Bamiyan province. The flour they bought months ago is running out, so food is also becoming scarce.

“Last spring we received two bags of flour that we still use. After that, we must have faith that God will help us, “the 57-year-old said in a room lined with rice bags to keep out the cold.

Their firewood was stolen as they left their home amid the chaos that engulfed Afghanistan while the Taliban swept to Kabul on their way to regain control of the country.

Stories like Kubra’s are more and more common in a country hit by severe drought and where money has dried up.

Before the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government in August, the economy relied heavily on foreign aid. But with the international community wary of the group and the United States imposing sanctions on some of its leaders, that support has almost disappeared.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 23 million Afghans – about 55 percent of the population – face extreme levels of hunger, with nearly nine million at risk of starvation as winter sets in.

Life for Afghanistan’s poor has always been difficult; Kubra’s family works on farms in the spring and earns potatoes instead of money.

But it’s getting worse. Vegetables like cauliflower are out of reach, and plastic sheets protect their home from the icy weather and snow. There is so little space in the single room that Kubra sleeps at her sister’s house at night.

“My son used to collect pieces of scrap metal, but at the moment he has no job,” she said.

Already vulnerable after months of severe drought and decades of war that have forced many to flee homes for relatively stable regions such as Bamiyan, Afghans are entering the unknown.

“We’ve never had different kinds of food, but in the past it was right, we had rice and cooking oil,” said Massouma, a 26-year-old mother of four from neighboring Maidan Wardak province.

“We cooked once a day and it was good. Now it is once a week and sometimes there is not even bread to eat. ”

Bamiyan is especially known outside Afghanistan for imposing Buddhist sites that dominate the small market town, 20 years after the Taliban blew up the two giant statues that once looked out over the high plains.

In winter it is bitterly cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing and biting winds.

Work slowed down in the cold months, but the region has already suffered since visitors who once came to the Buddhist sites and nearby Band-e-Amir Lake disappeared when the Taliban offensive reached its peak.

Taliban officials say they are aware of the problems facing the poor, which they say stem in part from the aftermath of more than four decades of conflict and mismanagement under the previous government.

They have also repeatedly called on Washington to unblock about $ 9 billion in central bank assets.

“We intend to alleviate these problems,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. “We know what the people are facing.”

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