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Editorial: Harsh blow

Afghanistan’s economy predominantly fueled by aid has taken a harsh blow due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown and quarantine, inflicting unprecedented suffering on the impoverished people and further triggering the country into poverty. Overwhelmed by abject poverty and financial pressure, a man was reported to have committed suicide a few days back in the capital Kabul. Fear of starving is something that has made Afghans defy the lockdown orders and continue their movement in cities to make ends meet while risking their lives due to potential contraction of the deadly virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has so far shown no mercy in Afghanistan as the tally of positive coronavirus cases hit 1,150 recently. Meanwhile, the unintended outcome of the state of lockdown that rendered unemployment has led to food price spikes, which would further soar if due attention is not given. Meanwhile, the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani promises that food would be distributed among needy and poor people through bakeries, mosques, local development councils and other institutions in the near future. Also, through the implementation of big projects, a number of people are said to find jobs. But the government should realize that food distribution isn’t a feasible scheme nowadays. We witnessed that providing 1,000 families with 4.5 kilograms lately proved to be embarrassing and ineffective. The government should rather focus on devising a strategy, channeling the huge sums of foreign aid, to provide the needy people with hard cash transfers just like other countries around the world – something that gives families the autonomy to manage the cash in whatever suitable manner they wish. As Ghani pledges and announces that big projects are going to be implemented, it’s time we had already initiated practical work so that poor people and daily wagers could benefit right away – sooner is better than later. Because the lockdown added insult to injury – fragile Afghan economy further deteriorating – the poverty-stricken people, some of whom are the sole breadwinners of large families, had been forced to commit suicides, something that signifies the utter failure of the government. The Kabul administration needs to spring into action; otherwise, besides taking a serious human toll, the virus would lead to an economic fallout that would be far worse, inflicting unprecedented manifold suffering on impoverished people.

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