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With Ramadan Underway, Afghan Families Survive on Bread and Tea

  • Living costs have skyrocketed since the Taliban took control in August 2021
  • UN estimates 70 percent of Afghans now depend on aid, as most are jobless

KABUL : The holy month of Ramadan is a time of celebration and unity, but with Afghanistan’s economy near collapse, families are resorting to desperate measures to buy food, with many surviving only on bread and tea. 

Since the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021, living costs and food prices have skyrocketed, while most adult Afghans are jobless. 

The UN estimates that 28 million people, or nearly 70 percent of the population, now depend on aid to survive. But even that assistance is limited as major international organizations have stopped operations in Afghanistan under its new rulers. 

As the Muslim world celebrates the holy month, with families planning flavorful dishes to enliven sahoor meals before sunrise and iftar dinners, in Afghan households that mood is no more. 

“In the past, we prepared iftar and sahoor not only for ourselves but also for security personnel and those living around us, but now we have nothing at all, only green tea and dry bread,” Shamsia Hassanzada, a former women’s rights activist and head of a kindergarten in Kabul, told Arab News.  

“Five members of our family, including me, used to work, but now only one person is working, and his income is not enough to meet our family’s needs.”  

Mohammad Naeem, a resident of Kabul who used to work as a driver for the Ministry of Defense under the previous administration, was glad that since the withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan in 2021, the country has been safer and more peaceful, but the economic situation has not left much room to rejoice. 

“Believe me, I did not make a single piece of clothing for myself in the last two years because of a lot of economic problems at home,” the 71-year-old said. 

He has not received his pension for the past few months.    

“In the past, I had different types of foods at our iftar and sahoor, but now we have no food,” he said. “If I eat meat, it is somewhere at a charity, but I cannot buy it at the market for my family.” 

Fasting and charity are among the five main obligations of Islam, and during Ramadan, there is a strong focus on helping others, but that is hardly possible now when families have to fend for themselves. 

“Keeping the fast for the whole day and then having nothing for iftar and sahoor is so hard and painful for me and for most Afghan families…Most of us have nothing except green tea,” said Karishma Nazari, a women’s rights activist. 

“We had a lot of rich countrymen across Afghanistan who would donate and help many poor families. Unfortunately, these countrymen also left the country after the Taliban took control.” 

Sayed Omar, 35, who used to work for the previous administration in Kabul, has been taking odd jobs for the past two years to keep nine family members afloat — a duty that makes it hard to extend charitable deeds to others. 

He goes to the city every day to look for an opportunity to earn but often returns home empty-handed. 

“It’s very difficult to support my family,” he said. “In the past, we had enough food for both iftar and sahoor, even we were sharing our food with our neighbors, but now I’m entirely preoccupied with my family.” 

Source: Arab News