Economic crisis hits Afghanistan orphanages hard

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Five sisters at Alawuddin Girls Orphanage, located on Kabul’s busy Darul Aman Road, have no idea about their future because the orphanage is facing a funding shortfall, making it difficult to provide food, clothing, and a warm environment during the harsh winter.

Afghanistan has 68 state-run and private orphanages, although 26 of them have closed due to the country’s economic woes. Others will close as well if the country’s financial troubles persist.

Orphanages in the country are grappling with the crisis, particularly food shortages after the US blocked over $9 billion of the country’s Central Bank reserves and international donors halted humanitarian aid.

After more than 40 years of political turbulence and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in wars, the country has been facing numerous hardships, including economic challenges since the Taliban took power in August.

According to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, 22.8 million people, or more than half of the country’s population, will face severe food shortages if the current crisis persists.

Many countries have refused to acknowledge the Taliban, who were armed insurgents battling US troops and their Afghan allies until recently.

Some countries are pressuring the Taliban to ensure basic freedoms, such as the right for girls to attend secondary school and women to work.

Orphan sisters
Hasiba Nabizade, 14, has been living at the orphanage with her four sisters, Tayyiba (9), Tuba (8), Zuleyha (6), and Yelda (3), since last year. Bektash, their 12-year-old sibling, is in a different orphanage in Pervan province.

The orphans’ father, a former government soldier, died in a helicopter crash two years ago, as lost their mother last year.

Their only relatives are their uncles, who live in the province of Kapisa. After a brief stay with their uncle following their mother’s death, the children were placed in the Alawuddin Girls Orphanage due to poverty.

Though the orphanage is officially for girls only, boys can stay until they reach the age of 12. The orphanage now houses 100 children, 45 of whom are girls and 55 of them are boys.

Psychiatric difficulties
Tayyiba and Zuleyha began to show psychiatric difficulties as a result of the trauma they had endured following the death of their mother, Hasiba told Anadolu Agency. Due to financial constraints at the orphanage, the two had been unable to see a doctor until now, she added.

She explained that her two sisters struggled to communicate, acted inappropriately for their age, and are always crying.

Stating that her uncle visits them once a month, Hasiba said she has taken the responsibility for her siblings at a young age and that this situation upset her very much.

She said her favorite food is rice with meat, which she has not eaten in two months. “I go hungry in the orphanage on sometimes,” she added referring to the fund shortage of the orphanage currently facing.

Stating that the administration has changed in Afghanistan, Hasiba said, “I know that the situation of people is just very bad. I hope we will see good days.”

“If the orphanage is closed, I will be very sad. At least we are comfortable here,” she commented on the orphanage’s financial situation.

Food, clothing shortage
Since the suspension of international aid, orphanages have faced numerous challenges, including a lack of food, clothes, fuel, medical, and stationery supplies, as the cash-strapped Taliban administration is unable to give them meals such as meat, milk, fruit, and vegetables.

While the administration of the Alawuddin Orphanage tries to keep the orphanage running on a limited budget, it has appealed to national and international organizations for “help.”

The buildings’ electrical and heating systems are not working properly. Electricity is routinely turned off, and there is no fuel for the generator, causing major problems with drinking water supplies.

The stench of not cleaning the toilets in the rooms has permeated throughout the building. Thick duvets are utilized in the winter weather, but the rooms are cold, especially in the evenings, due to the power outage and fuel shortage.

Ordeal of another orphan
Shiraz Pupelzei, 11, explained that after her father died four years ago, her mother remarried and sent her to the orphanage because she did not want her. “For the past four years, my mother has not visited me,” she told Anadolu Agency.

“I have an uncle that visits me once a week. He provides me pocket money, takes me to his place on occasion, and buys me clothes,” she added.

“If they get us out of the orphanage, there will be no one to look after us. We’ll be left on the street,” she says.

“I hardly remember my father, I’ve only dreamed about it once. I can’t miss it because my mother left me,” she added.

She stated that she aspires to become a pilot and help her people in the future. She enjoys sports and that he has not eaten his favorite Kabuli Pulao with meat in over a month, she added.

Shiraz said that they could not get out of the orphanage much, but they heard that there is a food shortage in the country.