In western Kabul, Rahima and another woman are sitting in front of a bakery, waiting for someone to buy bread for them. While Muslims consider Ramadan a month of blessings and the month of God’s party, those with good financial standing often indulge in more luxurious meals during the iftar to regain the energy lost throughout the day. However, for Rahima and her companion, the month of Ramadan signifies a month of more hunger and hardship.
Each evening, Rahima, a 43-year-old woman, can be found sitting in front of a bakery in western Kabul, two hours before iftar, hoping that someone will buy bread and help her. She gazes imploringly at every customer who enters the bakery, desperate for assistance.
In Rahima’s own words, dry bread is the only sustenance on their table during other months, but increased poverty and unemployment since the Taliban’s takeover have worsened their life situation, particularly during Ramadan.
“Life is a constant struggle with a hunger for us, not just during Ramadan but throughout the year,” Rahima declared. “To be frank, for impoverished individuals like myself, this holy month brings not blessings but even greater hunger.”
Fourteen years ago, Rahima lost her husband, and now she is the sole provider for her family of five. Before the republican regime fell and the Taliban took control, Rahima worked as an office cleaner in a private school. However, with the Taliban’s arrival and the subsequent ban on girls’ education, Rahima also lost her job.
“I used to work as an office cleaner in a school, which allowed me to provide for my family,” Rahima recounted to Nimrokh. “But after the Taliban’s takeover and the ban on girls’ education, the school’s enrollment dropped, and eventually, the school was shut down entirely. As a result, I lost my job and now we struggle to even afford dry bread. There are five of us at home, and for the last six months we have not seen five loaves of bread on the table together.”
Last year, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) disclosed that over 900,000 individuals lost their jobs following the Taliban’s takeover. This figure includes only those employed by the government, and it is likely much higher when factoring in job losses in the private sector and women working in foreign aid organizations. However, accurate statistics regarding freelance jobs and non-administrative sectors are currently unavailable.
The Taliban’s takeover has resulted in an unprecedented rise in food prices, posing a significant challenge for the people of Afghanistan. This problem is exacerbated during the month of Ramadan, as the cost of basic necessities increases while people’s purchasing power decreases. Coupled with the widespread unemployment, this situation has given rise to multiple layers of poverty and hunger across Afghan society, with no apparent solution in sight.
With the collapse of the economic system and the rise of Taliban rule, the price of raw materials has skyrocketed. In some cases, the cost of essential items has tripled. This trend is particularly pronounced during the month of Ramadan.
37-year-old Nasima is another woman who joins Rahima in front of the bakery, hoping that someone will buy her bread. She is also the sole provider for her family. Nasima’s husband was a member of the Afghan National Army, who lost his eyesight in an explosion.
“Before the arrival of the Taliban, I used to weave carpets and occasionally work in other people’s homes to support my family,” she said. “Additionally, my husband’s disability qualified us for some financial support from the government”.
Due to the harsh economic conditions that prevailed following the Taliban’s rise to power, Nasima too lost her source of income and now finds herself sitting in front of bakeries for hours on end, hoping someone will buy bread for her family.
“Before the fall [of the republican regime], I used to work as a cleaner and cook in households where women worked outside the home, but now with the Taliban in power, all women are forced to stay at home and there is no need for a worker like me,” Nasima told Nimrokh. “It is very difficult to accept handouts from others just to put food on the table. Life has become unbearable and I often wonder if death would be a better alternative.”
Nasima says that her family has not had any “oily” food for over a month now and they have been surviving on dry bread.
“When Ramadan comes, I find myself worrying more than ever,” Nasima said. “Not only does food become expensive, but also, there’s no leftover food to take home during the day. Prior to the month of Ramazan, I used to visit restaurants to collect extra food, but now they are closed.”
Even though these women are living in extremely difficult economic conditions, they are not receiving any humanitarian aid. The unequal distribution process of aid from international organizations in Afghanistan is another major challenge for poor families.
Raihana, a 47-year-old woman who supports a family of six, has applied for aid over five times but has not received anything yet.
She believes that every time aid is distributed, it only goes to a select few families who are in contact with county representatives, and the distribution is done in a showy manner.
“Since the Taliban’s takeover, we have only received aid once, which was a bag of flour along with some beans and peas,” she declared. “However, I’ve heard from others that aid is being distributed to them every 45 days or two months later. Despite registering with a county representative every time, I have not received any aid”.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) statistics for this year, over 28 million people in Afghanistan are experiencing acute hunger, and 6 million of them are at risk of famine.