Herat family reduces meals amid rising poverty in Afghanistan

Jamila and her children at their mud-made house in Herat.

HERAT, Afghanistan — As poverty and low income grip Afghanistan, some families, like that of Jamila in Herat, are forced to reduce their daily meals. Jamila, who supports an 11-member family on a monthly income of 3,000 Afghanis (about $41), says they now eat only one or two meals a day.

According to the United Nations, Afghanistan, with a population of 40 million, has one of the world’s lowest per capita incomes. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reports the average income is less than $1 a day.

“After 2021, the graph of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product and per capita income will go down,” the UNDP said. In 2023, the average income of Afghan citizens is projected to be $332 per year, down from $512 in 2020.

Afghanistan’s GDP was $19.5 billion in 2021 but has since fallen to $6 billion. “During the republic, we reached about $1.50 and even $2 per day, but now we have sixty cents a day,” said Sayyed Masoud, a former professor at Kabul University’s Faculty of Economics.

The house where Jamila lives in.

The World Bank classifies countries with a per capita income of $1,135 as low-income. Afghanistan’s per capita income is about $332 per year.

Afghanistan’s per capita income over the last four years:

2020: $512
2021: $356
2022: $359
2023: $332
Economic experts say the drop in per capita income to less than $1 per day highlights the severity of the country’s poverty.

The latest UNDP report, released on January 10, indicates Afghanistan’s GDP has declined by 29% since 2020. The Taliban’s restrictions on women have also led to economic losses ranging from $600 million to $1 billion.