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South Asia

Drought Pushes Afghans Into Poverty as U.S. Nears Withdrawal Deal With Taliban

Financial hardship among Afghans surges amid an epic drought.

A crippling drought has driven 90 percent of Afghanistan into financial hardship, according to a new survey by Gallup. It’s the highest level of financial hardship recorded by the company in Afghanistan over the past decade and the highest in the world last year.

Over fifty percent of Afghans live below the poverty line. Food insecurity is increasing their ranks. Close to sixty percent of Afghans reported that they could not afford food at times in the past year. That figure is much higher in the country’s north, northeast, and southwest, which have been hit hardest by the drought.

Astonishingly, not a single respondent to the survey said that they were “living comfortably” on their present household income. Nine percent said that they were “getting by,” but the vast majority—ninety percent—said that they were struggling to meet their needs based on present income.

Drought is driving food insecurity, which now affects nearly half of all Afghans, and it is also slowing economic growth. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy grew at a rate of only one percent in 2018, averaging a mere two percent annually over the past five years.

Former World Bank country director for Afghanistan Shubham Chaudhuri says that more than half of Afghans live on less than a dollar a day. Approximately 25 percent of the total population is unemployed and of those employed 80 percent is vulnerable and insecure, according to the World Bank.

Inadequate rain over the past several years—driven in part by climate change—has resulted in severe drought, debilitating the country’s agricultural production, resulting in rising displacement, food insecurity, and poverty. In 2018, 275,000 people affected by drought were displaced internally, according to ReliefWeb.

As the Afghan Taliban and the United States close in on a preliminary peace agreement, the beginning of the end of Afghanistan’s 40-year war may be soon. But the road to peace remains a rocky one and there are plenty of forces who aim to play the role of spoiler. And even if Afghanistan’s war comes to an end, the country’s war on poverty will take generations to win.

Urooj Tarar covers South Asia and pivot states for Globely News. She previously worked for the English-language edition of Daily Pakistan.

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