Taliban fighters pose for a photograph in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day on Thursday by declaring they beat the United States, but challenges to their rule ranging from running a country severely short on cash and bureaucrats to potentially facing an armed opposition began to emerge. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan – One year since the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan, ever-increasing violence, extreme poverty, and multiple natural disasters have crippled the country, putting the life of roughly 40 million Afghans to uncertainty.

According to a new report by Save the Children, economic crisis, crippling drought and new restrictions have shattered girls’ lives, with a quarter showing signs of depression.

  • Girls almost twice as likely as boys to frequently go to bed hungry
  • 46% of girls say they’re not attending school compared with 20% of boys
  • 26% of girls are showing signs of depression compared with 16% of boys

Girls Education in Afghanistan since the Taliban Takeover

FILE: A young girl attends one of the thousands of community based schools, supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund to make formal education accessible to children. 24/Apr/2008. Nangarhar, Afghanistan. UN Photo/Roger Lemoyne. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/

After the takeover last August, the Islamic Emirate leadership on a formal decree banned female students of grade six and above from attending classes in schools across the country, reversing years of progress for gender equality. 

“On 2 of Hamal [March 23], we were ordered by the office of the Islamic Emirate’s leadership to suspend the girls’ classes from grade 7-12 for a temporary period of time and until a general decision is made,” said Aziz Ahmad Riyan, a spokesman of the Ministry of Education.

A latest report by Save the Children sent to Khaama Press shows more than 45% of girls are not attending school – compared with 20% of boys – listing economic challenges, community attitudes, and the Taliban’s ban on girls attending secondary school as the key barriers preventing them from getting education.

Girls interviewed by the independent organization expressed disappointment and anger over the fact they can no longer go to school, saying they felt hopeless about their future because they don’t have the rights and freedoms they had previously.

“I would love to go to school. When I see other girls going to school, I wish I could go to school too,” said Parishad, a 15-year-old girl living in northern Afghanistan. “Every month we change houses and it’s difficult for us to go to school. We also don’t have any stationery and we need money to buy books.”

“Some days my father cannot bring food. My brothers wake up at midnight and cry for food. I don’t eat, and I save my food for my brothers and sisters,” she added. “When my brothers and sisters ask for food, I get upset and cry a lot.”

Taliban leadership has repeatedly failed to address these concerns even after continued pressures by the world leaders – including international community – on girls’ education and women rights in Afghanistan.

“A good action will happen in this [education] regard. There may be goodness in this [education] regard,” said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the first Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban.

But, the schools remained suspended up to this day, as the latest report shows at least 26% of girls are showing signs of depression compared with 16% of boys due to ongoing restrictions and continued violence against women in Afghanistan.

Media in Afghanistan since the Taliban Takeover

Media in Afghanistan since the Taliban Takeover: Representative image

In August 15, 2021 the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, rolling back women’s rights advances and media freedom – the foremost achievements of the post-2001 reconstruction efforts on gender equality and freedom of speech.

On March 17, 2022, the Taliban government had taken at least three employees of TOLOnews, Afghanistan’ largest television station, over violation of the latest policies where broadcasting foreign drama series were banned.

Following the arrests, the Taliban’s secret service warned in a statement that it would not allow anyone to violate “Islamic principles”, nor threaten the “mental and psychological security” of the Afghan people.

“Some media outlets were reporting cases that offended the religious sentiments of the community and threatened our national security,” the statement said. “In addition, the evil and vicious elements were receiving their propaganda material against the state from the contents of these media.”

On March 28, 2022, the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence raided at least four radio stations in the southern province of Kandanhar for so-called violating the recent ban on music, detaining six media practitioners.

On the same day, the Taliban government targeted international medias with broadcasting bans, including DW and BBC’s Afghan Services in the country. Days after, both the DW and BBC announced its programs and news bulletins will no longer be rebroadcasted by the Afghan partners.

Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) expressed “deep concern” over the increasing number of media practitioners being arrested throughout the country, warning of the “consequences” the Taliban leadership could bring to the country.  

“On this day (World Media Freedom Day), the Afghanistan Journalists’ Center expresses its deep concern over the increase in the number of arrests of journalists and media workers and the sudden collapse of the media in the country, and warns of the consequences of this process,” said AFJC in a statement to Khaama Press.

Statistics from last 12 months by the AFJC show at least four journalists and media practitioners have lost their lives in Afghanistan: three as a result of two ISIS-affiliated explosions in Kabul and one person during coverage of the war between the Taliban and former government forces in Kandahar.

The report also showed about 130 other incidents against journalists and media practitioners, where about 90 cases were short and long-term detention up to a month, including violence and threats.

Considering the record high number of violence against media practitioners during the Taliban rule in past eight months, the AFJC called on the Islamic Emirate officials to make a firm political commitment and enforce laws, asking the current leadership to reconsider the law on mass media and access to information.

Currently, more than half of about 600 media outlets – mainly the radios, televisions, and print publications – were shut down due to financial crisis the sudden change brought about to the companies.

And, about 30% of other media outlets that have been operating despite the odds are on the verge of financial collapse, forcing many others to operate intermittently for a few hours a day or week.

Poverty in Afghanistan since the Taliban Takeover

FILE: Men reaching for bread.

Following the Taliban takeover on August 15, 2021, billions of dollars in international aid were withdrawn, Afghanistan’s foreign currency reserves were frozen and the banking system collapsed. The subsequent economic crisis and the country’s worst drought in 30 years have plunged households into poverty. 

Children interviewed by Save the Children said the economic situation was driving an increase in child marriages in their communities, impacting girls more than boys. Out of the children who said they had been asked to marry to improve their family’s financial situation in the past year, 88% were girls.

“Life is dire for children in Afghanistan, one year since the Taliban took control,” Chris Nyamandi, Save the Children Country Director in Afghanistan, said. “Children are going to bed hungry night after night.”

“They’re exhausted and wasting away, unable to play and study like they used to,” he added. “They’re spending their days toiling in brick factories, collecting rubbish and cleaning homes instead of going to school.”

A latest UN-backed report published in May shows nearly 20 million people in Afghanistan – almost half of the country’s population – are facing acute hunger, depicting a “catastrophic” economy in the country since the Taliban takeover last August.

Another analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) also revealed a pocket of “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity in the northeast, affecting thousands other locals.  

The analysis was conducted in January and February by partners, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sister agency the World Food Programme (WFP), and many non-governmental organizations.

“Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and re-connect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative.

Both FAO and WFP continue to scale up their programs across Afghanistan, providing help to local farmers, millers and bakeries in a maximized efforts for sustainability and growth in the country.

“We are working with farmers, millers, and bakeries, training women and creating jobs to support the local economy,” said Ms. McGroarty of WFP. “Because the people of Afghanistan would much prefer jobs; women want to be able to work; and all girls deserve to go to school.”

“Allowing the economy to function normally is the surest way out of the crisis, otherwise suffering will grow where crops cannot,” she added.

A lack of food is having devastating consequences on children’s health and threatening their future. Nine in 10 girls said their meals had reduced in the past year and that they worry because they’re losing weight and have no energy to study, play and work.

The crisis is also taking a dangerous toll on girls’ mental and psychosocial wellbeing, according to Save the Children.

Girls in focus groups said they had trouble sleeping at night because they were worried and have bad
dreams. They also said they had been excluded from many of the activities that previously made them
happy, such as spending time with relatives and friends and going to parks and shops.

Natural Disaster in Afghanistan since the Taliban Takeover

FILE: Men searching for what is left after a strong earthquake stroke southeast of Kabul.

The ongoing sanctions against the Taliban who took over the country last August has limited much international assistance and humanitarian aids, doubling the ongoing crisis for the already-devastated Afghans across the country.

In late June, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, where Afghan officials struggled to reach the affected areas due to poor communications and a lack of proper roads that hampered their efforts.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we trying to get updates,” Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika province, told Reuters news agency, referring to telephone networks.

Rescuers rushed to the area by both air and land, but the response is likely to be complicated since reaching rural areas even in the best circumstances remains difficult in Afghanistan – a landlocked nation with rutted mountain roadways that may now have sustained significant damage.

Footage from Paktika showed men carrying people in blankets to waiting helicopters, while others were treated on the ground, according to AP. Some images showed residents picking through clay bricks and other rubble from destroyed stone houses, some of whose roofs or walls had caved in.

The earthquake considered to be one of the deadliest temblors in decades, killing some 1,000 people and wounded more than 1,500 other. About 600 people had been rescued from various affected areas on Wednesday night.

The town of Gayan, close to the epicentre, sustained significant damage with most of its mud-walled buildings damaged or completely collapsed, destroying more than 3,000 houses.

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About Save the Children

The data and information in the report are from a Save the Children assessment conducted in June
2022 and a child 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 years old participated in the consultation, and 1,450 children and 1,450 caregivers
participated in the assessment

Save the Children has worked in Afghanistan since 1976, including during periods of conflict, regime
change, and natural disasters. The independent organization has programs in nine provinces and work with partners in an additional six provinces.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The names in this report are hypothetical to protect identities of those children and families.

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