World Bank says living conditions remain dire for Afghans

A woman in Kandahar, July 2022.

Living conditions remain difficult for Afghan families as two-thirds of households in the country continue to struggle to meet basic food and non-food needs, the World Bank said in a survey published Tuesday.

The Afghanistan Welfare Monitoring Survey, conducted between June and August 2022, assesses changes in basic living conditions in Afghanistan one year after the collapse of the republic government.

Overall, the survey paints a grim picture of living conditions in Afghanistan as widespread deprivation continues and food insecurity remains high, negatively impacting the economy and the welfare of the Afghan people, especially women and girls.

The first round of the survey was conducted from October to December 2021.

According to Melinda Good, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, there is an urgent need for the Taliban administration “to take tangible steps to improve food security and livelihoods, maintain basic health services, and ensure that the private sector can play a role to create jobs for the many Afghans, particularly young people, who are unemployed.

“Without this, the welfare of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, remains at risk,” she said.

“It is deeply concerning to see that a majority of Afghan households continue to face enormous economic difficulties and that access to education-especially for girls-remains severely constrained,” Good said.

The survey found that rising food prices coupled with the effects of last year’s drought are among the key reasons for limited access to and affordability of food.

This, the World Bank stated, signals more significant deprivation in the coming winter months.

In addition, the survey found that 65 percent of respondents believe the economic conditions of their households will worsen over the next 12 months. This was just 26 percent in the summer of 2020.

Employment meanwhile among household heads increased by seven percent between October 2021 and June 2022, with a slight uptick in private-sector salaried work, while public-sector employment remains much lower, the survey found.

Kabul residents holding loaves of bread as part of an aid program. Jan. 2022.

Nine percent of household heads were salaried in private-sector jobs, while more young men (ages 14-18) and older men (ages 55-65) seek work but cannot find it, fueling unemployment, the report read.

In contrast, many more women across all age groups report becoming economically active, with female labor force participation doubling relative to 2016 or 2020. Women are working predominantly in home-based self-employed activities.

With regards to education, primary school enrollment is as high as it was in 2016, primarily driven by increased enrollment of children in rural areas. In urban areas, primary school enrollment for girls and boys remains below the levels observed in 2016, the report stated. However, secondary school enrollment rates for boys appear stagnant in rural areas and have declined in urban areas as older boys drop out of school to seek jobs in an increasingly difficult labor market.

“Girls’ secondary school attendance has collapsed, particularly in urban areas, from 44 and 50 percent in the summers of 2016 and 2020 respectively, to just 12 percent in the summer of 2022,” the World Bank stated.

This finding is consistent with the current closure of secondary schools for girls under Taliban rule.

Medical services meanwhile continue to be available, as only 8 percent of individuals who needed health services were unable to obtain them and little differences in access are reported between urban and rural areas. “Women were able to access healthcare services, public and private, at the same rates as men,” read the report.

Perceptions of security were also surveyed and found to have improved, with two-thirds of households reporting that they feel safer than a year ago. The survey found however that the same is not true in the Central and West-Central regions, where more households report feeling less safe than a year ago.