KABUL, Afghanistan – Shekiba Sukur has been waiting for hours outside a bakery in Kabul as the impoverished Afghanistan is now grappling with cash crunch, which appears to have flown out with the exit of US forces in August after 20 years of operations.
She is in queue with more than a dozen burka-clad women, waiting for someone to be generous enough to buy her bread loaves.
“I wait here for three hours every day for bread,” Sukur told Anadolu Agency.
The country’s economy has suffered for the past 42 years, beginning with the invasion of the country by the former Soviet Union in 1979, which triggered a decade of war by Afghan mujahidin groups, followed by a 20-year war between the US and the Taliban, whose government was overthrown after the 9/11 attacks.
Due to over four decades of political as well as economic instability, the cash-strapped country is now in a catastrophic economic crisis, with people selling assets and begging for bread to stay alive.
Although security worries have diminished since the Taliban took power on Aug. 15 and two days later the US government froze about USD9.5 billion in assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank. Many donors and international organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have stopped making payments to the interim Taliban regime.
The UN forecasts that around 22.8 million people or over half of Afghanistan’s population will face severe food problems.
The poor people wait in front of bakeries for hours despite the cold weather, hoping a customer may give them bread.
“My husband is disabled. I take care of a household of 11 people,” Sukur said. “I wait in the line for 11 loaves of bread,” as the family does not have anything to eat at home.
“We live in a tent,” she continued. “We eat only bread in the evenings, and we drink tea without bread in the mornings.”
‘Salary not enough’
Farida Shahzade, a widow in the same queue for bread, said she works as a cook at a nearby school but her wage is not enough to cover her rent and children’s school needs.
“I live in Kabul. I have six children, and no husband,” Shahzade told Anadolu Agency, adding, “I wait here for bread because I need to.”
The people in line for bread, according to Mava Niyazi, are not beggars. “With the Taliban’s takeover of power, many people have lost their jobs. Those who work are not paid.”
“We have been unable to pay our rent for four months. We eat the bread I take from here with tea or water. My children do not have anything to eat or wear,” she added.
Matinullah Safiyi, a baker in the city, said the number of people waiting for bread in front of his bakery is increasing day by day.
He gives around 50-60 loaves of bread to the people, Safiyi said. “This reflects the current situation in Afghanistan. The number of these people has gone up over the last three months.” (Anadolu)