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Report: After $145 Billion U.S. Reconstruction Effort in Afghanistan, ‘Tsunami of Hunger’ Worsening

After the United States withdrew forces from Afghanistan, leading to the Taliban’s swift takeover, a new report sheds light on the dire humanitarian emergency in the country.

Afghanistan reconstruction encompasses related contracts, grants, agreements, or other funding given to the country by the U.S. government. According to the quarterly report from the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which examined America’s $145.87 billion reconstruction effort, there is record drought, rising food prices, and internal displacement. The collapse of public services has been accompanied by a sharp economic downturn.

Between September and October 2021, an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification study found close to 19 million Afghans had acute food insecurity. Building on this, SIGAR’s report finds more than 22 million Afghans will struggle this winter from potentially life-threatening hunger levels – with 8.7 million in near-famine conditions.

The report also cites September data from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) indicating as much as 97% of Afghanistan’s population — as of mid-2022 — is at risk of falling under the poverty line due to the economic and political crises. Health services have seen a major decline, the report harps on, given summer data from the Kandahar and Helmand provinces show a slippage of 36 to 47% in maternal health services. This has been accompanied by a 15% drop in child care usage, a 31% drop in major surgeries, and a 46% drop in cesarean sections.

Kabul’s COVID-19 treatment facility, the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, has experienced shortages in fuel for generators, essential drugs, supplies like gloves, and oxygen supplies. By December 16 of last year, about 36 essential medications had been run through.

“This same data set shows a 73% drop in children being referred to health facilities for tuberculosis treatment and a 40% drop in children receiving Vitamin A, which is important for vision, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity,” the report states. “Additional data collected from health facilities across 17 provinces showed that up to 25% fewer children received critical vaccinations in August compared to June.”

The U.S. withdrew forces from Afghanistan last year and there were several casualties. Still, America is the largest humanitarian aid donor to the country, and as of January, this number was at $782 million: including for Afghan refugees. The White House announced in January it would pump another $308 million in.

While the state department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) told SIGAR last quarter that there had been a suspension of contact with the Afghan government — as well as a termination, suspension, and pause on all on-budget assistance, USAID told SIGAR this quarter that some off-budget activities had been resumed.

“The new assistance arrives in an altered landscape where the Taliban, rather than a partner Afghan government, control the institutions of state,” SIGAR said in its report. “This raises a significant oversight challenge and greatly increases the risk that aid to Afghanistan will be diverted before it reaches the people who need it most. In late January, the United States and other international donors met with the Taliban in Oslo to discuss human rights concerns and responses to the humanitarian crisis.”

Taliban forces have claimed they are developing a 2022 education curriculum, but the state department told SIGAR it has no evidence of it being operational yet. The Taliban said in a December 2020 report they seek to prohibit “foreign influence” in schools.

Afghan women have been forced from their jobs after the terrorist group assumed power. According to UNDP, restrictions on female employment could cost the national economy $1 billion and a GDP slippage of 5%. Prior to the Taliban takeover, women constituted more than 20% of Afghanistan’s workforce.

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