A year under Taliban rule, girls more isolated, hungrier, sadder: new report

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  • Save the Children research finds girls nearly twice as likely as boys to go to bed hungry
  • 46% of girls say they do not attend school compared to 20% of boys
  • 26% of girls show signs of depression compared to 16% of boys

KABUL, August 10, 2022 – A year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, an economic crisis, a crippling drought and new restrictions have shattered girls’ lives, shutting them out of society and leaving them hungry, with a quarter showing signs of depression, a new one says Report by Save the Children.

The report entitled Breaking point: lives for children a year after the Taliban takeover shows that 97% of families struggle to feed their children adequately and that girls eat less than boys. Almost 80% of children reported going to bed hungry in the past 30 days[i]. Girls went to bed hungry almost twice as often as boys.

Lack of food has devastating effects on children’s health and threatens their future. Nine out of ten girls said their meals have decreased in the past year and that they worry because they are losing weight and lack the energy to study, play and work.

The crisis is also taking a dangerous toll on the girls’ mental and psychosocial well-being. According to interviews with their caregivers, 26% of girls show signs of depression compared to 16% of boys, and 27% of girls show signs of anxiety compared to 18% of boys.

Girls in focus groups said they had trouble sleeping at night because they worried and had bad dreams. They also said they have been excluded from many activities that used to make them happy, such as spending time with family and friends and visiting parks and shops.

After the Taliban took power last August, thousands of secondary school students were ordered to stay at home, reversing years of progress on gender equality. Girls interviewed by Save the Children expressed disappointment and anger at not being able to go to school anymore and said they felt hopeless about their future because they don’t have the rights and freedoms that they used to have.

More than 45% of girls reported not going to school – compared to 20% of boys – citing economic challenges, the Taliban’s ban on girls from attending secondary school classes and community attitudes as the main barriers preventing them from accessing prevent education.

Parishad*, 15, lives in northern Afghanistan and does not go to school because her parents cannot afford to feed their children, let alone pay for their books and stationery. Her family’s situation has deteriorated rapidly over the past 12 months and they have been evicted from their home because they cannot pay the rent. The landlord offered to buy one of Parishad’s siblings, but her parents refused.

Some days my father can’t bring food. My brothers wake up at midnight screaming for food. I don’t eat and save my food for my brothers and sisters. When my brothers and sisters ask for food, I get upset and cry a lot. I go to my neighbor’s house and ask for food. Sometimes they help me and give me food and sometimes they say they can’t give me anything‘ Parishad said.

When we left our old house to come to this house, I was deeply upset and said, ‘why are we leaving, why are we facing these problems again?’ I was deeply angry and it was a very difficult time and I cried.

“I would like to go to school. When I see other girls going to school, I wish I could go to school too. We change houses every month and it is difficult for us to go to school. We don’t have stationery either We need money to buy books. I can’t take it. I can not help it.”

The Taliban took power on August 15 after international forces withdrew last year. Billions of dollars in international aid were withdrawn, Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves were frozen and the banking system collapsed. The ensuing economic crisis and the country’s worst drought in 30 years have plunged households into poverty.

Children interviewed by Save the Children said that the economic situation – households without enough food and without basic amenities – is leading to an increase in child marriages in their communities, and that this is affecting girls more than boys. Of the children who indicated that they had been asked to marry in the past year to improve their family’s financial situation, 88% were girls.

Chris Nyamandi, Country Director of Save the Children in Afghanistan said:

“Life for children in Afghanistan is dire a year after the Taliban took control. Children go to bed hungry every night. They are exhausted and atrophied, unable to play and study like they used to. They spend their days working in brick factories, picking up rubbish and cleaning houses instead of going to school.

“Girls are bearing the brunt of the deteriorating situation. They miss more meals, suffer from isolation and emotional distress, and stay at home while the boys go to school. This is a humanitarian crisis, but also a children’s rights disaster.

“The solution cannot be found in Afghanistan alone. The solution lies in the corridors of power and in the offices of our global political leaders. Unless they immediately provide humanitarian funds and find a way to revitalize the banking system and support the economic spiral, children’s lives will be lost and more boys and girls will lose their childhoods to work, marriage and rights violations.”

Parishad also has a message for the international community: “Help my family – and the most vulnerable children and families – with money and food. I want my brothers and sisters to eat well and have shoes to wear and my brother to have good clothes to wear. Please help us so that we can continue our education.”

Save the Children has been working in Afghanistan since 1976, even during times of conflict, regime change and natural disasters. We have programs in nine provinces and work with partners in another six provinces.

Since the Taliban regained control in August 2021, we have expanded our efforts to support the growing number of children in need. We provide health, nutrition, education, child protection, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as food security and livelihood support. Save the Children has reached more than 2.5 million people since September 2021, including 1.4 million children.

*Names changed to protect identities

[1] In the past 30 days since interviewing children for the May 2022 Save the Children survey.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • There is multimedia content at: www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2S89PIKX
  • save the child report, Breaking point: lives for children a year after the Taliban takeoveris available at: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/document/breaking-point-childrens-lives-one-year-under-taliban-rule/
  • The data and information in the report come from an assessment by Save the Children conducted in June 2022 and a children’s consultation in May 2022. The assessment and consultations were conducted in Balkh, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan, Kabul, Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces. 240 boys and girls aged 9 to 17 participated in the consultation, and 1,450 children and 1,450 carers participated in the assessment.
  • Save the Children supported Parishad’s family in four cash payments. Cash grants allow families to purchase essentials for their individual needs and help limit the use of negative coping methods that adversely affect children, such as B. Child marriage or selling a child to cover debt or buy groceries. Parishad’s father, Noorzad*, said that the financial support makes him feel like a father for the first time because he can buy food and clothes for his family.

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