UN says 34 million Afghans in poverty under Taliban rule

UN says 34 million Afghans in poverty under Taliban rule
In the last full year of governance by the Western-backed regime, the figure was 15 million less.
2 min read
During Ramadan, food aid has been exceptionally high [Getty images]

The number of Afghans in poverty nearly doubled to 34 million since the nation was racked by the collapse of the US-backed government and the Taliban takeover, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Vast foreign subsidies were halted and aid programmes dramatically cut back after the US-backed republic fell in 2021 as many countries refused to deal with the Taliban authorities in Kabul.

Those NGOs still providing vital help were dealt a further blow in December last year by a Taliban government order barring Afghan women from working for them.

The curb was extended this month to the UN's Afghan women employees and the organisation said it faces an "appalling choice" over whether to continue its aid schemes.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released on Tuesday a stark new assessment of 2022 data estimating 34 million Afghans were living below the poverty line.

The figure is a staggering increase of 15 million on 2020, the last full year of rule by the Western-backed government that crumbled in a matter of weeks the following summer.

There is no contemporary census data for Afghanistan but the UN uses a population estimate of 40 million, meaning 85 percent of the nation is projected to be in poverty.

"Some have been compelled to sell their homes, land, or assets that generate income," the UNDP report said.

"Others have resorted to the distressing practice of commodifying their own family members, turning children into labourers and young daughters into brides."

The UN airlifts vast sums of US dollars into Afghanistan to pay staff and operating costs -- cash injections that have also been vital in shoring up the nation's faltering economy.