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Editorial: Deprivation of the only lifeline

With COVID-19 positive cases hovering around 4,402 including 120 deaths, the virus-induced lockdowns and self-quarantine measures across Afghanistan have exacerbated the deadly phenomenon of abject poverty, as well as contributing to galloping corruption. All Afghans, but especially the daily wagers and other destitute breadwinners, have been forced to stay homes as directed by the imposed curfew – something resulting in their suffering from serious privations. But that’s not all. The food drives and free bread distribution initiatives have also not proven effective in the wake of stinging criticism regarding their transparency to reach out to the people who truly deserve the aid. In a recent unfortunate incident, a food donation organized by a Qatari group turned violent in Ghor province over what was seen as “unjust distribution of food items to poor families.” The event resulted in the killing of two policemen and four other people, including an employee of a local radio station.

Moreover, the state-run plan to distribute 650 tons of flour to low-income families across the country through 1,343 bakeries is also receiving reproaches despite the recent announcement by President Ashraf Ghani to extend the free bread-distribution project from the first six provinces to the rest 28. There have been constant complaints that the process of pandemic relief is not running fairly and that there are favoritism and corruption. As Afghanistan has already been struggling with violence, the growing COVID-19 crisis only exacerbated problems – most of all with regards to food access in the impoverished country with poor families being badly affected economically. The food drives by international organizations in this holy month of Ramadan and the government’s scheme of free bread distribution have been anticipated measures that could soften up the blow of COVID-19. However, when there is a lack of transparency and the pervasiveness of corruption in these practices as well, then the needy people are deprived of the sole lifeline thrown to their rescue. That’s indeed a shameful and embarrassing situation to behold. Therefore, the government should put in place strict and proper monitoring measures to oversee the implementation of food distribution schemes and drives. Otherwise, they don’t mean anything for deserving families and are merely an opportunity and means of embezzlement for corrupt people. Moreover, the government should probe the incident of unjust distribution of food items in Ghor thoroughly – and not only that but also pay heed to other similar complaints registered in this regard.

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