Briefing note

Afghanistan at a Precipice

Published 10. Aug 2022
NRC's briefing note "Afghanistan at a Precipice" provides a humanitarian overview of the needs and challenges in Afghanistan one year since the Taliban takeover of the country.

For ordinary Afghans, the changes during just one year have been hard to bear. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country creating a new regional displacement crisis. Many are also on the move inside the country in search of jobs and livelihood opportunities as families must deal with the consequences of the shrinking economy. Many families, facing increasing pressures on their household budgets, are taking on crippling debt and going without meals. Competition over increasingly limited resources is likely to intensify as the humanitarian situation deteriorates further. This will have devastating consequences for ordinary Afghans and has already triggered new waves of instability in the country as tensions rise along pre-existing ethnic, tribal and religious divides.

Staggering levels of poverty and desperation now characterise Afghanistan one year after the takeover of the country by the Taliban in August 2021. The country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, driven primarily by the major financial and political restrictions that have been placed on the Taliban-led state by the international community and have caused widespread economic collapse. The stalled private sector, starved of investment and access to financing, is a sign of the halt to economic growth. Jobs and livelihood opportunities are rapidly diminishing. Public sector spending has plummeted – deprived of the foreign aid that was so critical to Afghanistan’s development. Prior to August 2021, international assistance constituted around 75 per cent of all public spending in the country.

International donor support to Afghanistan is limited to short term emergency humanitarian assistance, which is insufficient to address the needs of the population. Afghanistan’s new de facto government remains illegitimate in the eyes of the international community and is struggling to govern effectively. Ambiguous and inconsistent domestic policies are sowing divisions between national and local power brokers, while complex policies and bureaucratic procedures prevent the delivery of critically needed public services. Additionally, the Taliban’s continued intransigence on key international donor requirements such as education for girls, prevents political engagement from the international community.

Despite calls by NGOs and other actors, one year on little progress has been made on the economic situation and Afghanistan stands at a precipice. Yet one thing is clear: without measures to address the current economic crisis, and non-humanitarian (development) assistance restarted, there will be no improvement to the lives of ordinary Afghans. The population cannot wait for diplomatic and political engagement to happen. With Afghanistan’s current emergency appeal already failing to attract sufficient levels of funding, the outlook appears bleak. The people of Afghanistan are the ones being punished for the Taliban takeover of the country.

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