February 2, 2022
Today the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its fifty-fourth Quarterly Report to Congress examining the $145.87 billion U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.
- Over half of Afghanistan’s population faces a “tsunami of hunger,” according to the UN World Food Programme. The humanitarian emergency is the result of record drought, rising food prices, internal displacement, and the severe economic downturn and collapse of public services following the Taliban’s return to power in August.
- The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification study found that nearly 19 million Afghans experienced acute food insecurity in September and October 2021. The report further estimates that 22.8 million Afghans will be at potentially life-threatening levels of hunger this winter, 8.7 million of whom will face near-famine conditions. WHO and WFP estimate that 3.2 million Afghan children under age five will suffer from acute malnutrition this winter, with one million at risk of dying.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported in September that up to 97% of Afghanistan’s population was at risk of slipping below the poverty line by mid-2022 as a result of the worsening political and economic crises. UNDP’s economic models estimated it would take $2 billion in foreign aid just to lift the incomes of all Afghans in extreme poverty up to the poverty line.
- Last quarter, State Department and USAID told SIGAR that they had suspended all contact with the Afghan government, and terminated, suspended, or paused all on-budget assistance (funds provided directly to Afghan authorities and controlled by them). This quarter, USAID informed SIGAR it has resumed some off-budget (U.S.-managed) activities in Afghanistan.
- On January 11, the White House announced an additional $308 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. On that same day, the United Nations launched a $5 billion funding appeal for its 2022 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, the largest single-country aid appeal in United Nations history.
- The United States remains the single largest humanitarian aid donor to Afghanistan. As of January 2022, the United States was providing $782 million in humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region.
- SIGAR has developed 10 best practices for donors and implementing agencies that can help the United States accomplish the goals of protecting taxpayer funds while providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.
- Afghan opiate production in 2021 was the third highest recorded since surveying began in 1994, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The UNODC report said the gross output of the Afghan opiate economy was between $1.8 billion and $2.7 billion in 2021, comprising the equivalent of 9–14% of Afghanistan’s GDP, exceeding the value of all of Afghanistan’s officially recorded licit exports for 2020.
- Data collected from Kandahar and Helmand provinces indicate that, between June and August 2021, the uptake of maternal health services dropped by 36–47%, with the largest decline in institutional deliveries (47%). From August to September 2021 (compared to August–September 2020), the use of antenatal care declined by 21%, institutional deliveries by 29%, cesarean sections by 46%, use of child care by 15% and major surgeries by 31%, according to UNICEF and WHO.
- The Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, Kabul’s only dedicated COVID-19 facility, reported a lack of oxygen supplies critical to patient care, as well as shortages in fuel for generators, food, and essential drugs for patients, and basic supplies like examination gloves. Supplies of some 36 essential medications had already run out by December 16.
- On December 3, the Taliban announced they were banning forced marriages in Afghanistan, declaring that women must give consent to be married. Per the decree, “a women is not a property, but a noble and free human being; no one can give her to anyone in exchange for peace … or to end animosity.” The declaration comes amid numerous reports of Afghan parents selling their daughters to feed the rest of their families as starvation grips the country this winter.
- UNDP found that restrictions on women’s employment could immediately cost the Afghan economy $1 billion, resulting in the country’s GDP dropping by another 5%. Women made up over 20% of Afghanistan’s workforce before the Taliban takeover, including thousands employed as teachers, health professionals, journalists, media presenters, civil-society representatives, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and entrepreneurs.
- The Taliban have said they are developing a new education curriculum for 2022. While State told SIGAR it has no evidence that such a Taliban curriculum has yet been operational, a December 2020 report from the Taliban’s education commission sheds some light on the type of educational changes they may implement. A central theme of the report is the desire to remove “foreign influence” from the school curriculum; music and musical images are among the things that would be removed from lessons.