Stuck in a prolonged conflict, faced by an uncertain political climate, and beginning a strenuous peace process, Afghanistan already was in a difficult situation when the Covid-19 struck. Taking early action in order to prevent the potential consequences of the pandemic crisis was the top priority for the government, given that the health infrastructure of the country is fragile. However, compared to the other countries grappling with the pandemic, the economic situation due to lockdowns has added to the uncertainty that Afghanistan faces.
Since March, the government imposed restrictions all over the country, forcing a lot of people to struggle with unemployment, increased job insecurity, and limited working days.
Almost 15 million Afghans in 2 million households are especially vulnerable to economic lockdown. In the absence of a reliable source of income, some people were even forced to sell their possessions in order to feed their families. There are rampant signs of anxiety throughout the country regarding how prolonged and deep this crisis could be and the probable implications it can have on people’s livelihoods. Afghanistan was already suffering from disproportionate rates of poverty, especially in rural areas.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the families that were depending on daily earnings for food were the most affected. Simulations have been generated based on household expenditure survey data. Household survey data is the information collected regarding the expenditure and incomes of households, and socio-economic characteristics of a sample of households representing the people in the country.
This information is the primary source used to obtain indicators of welfare and poverty for Afghanistan. The results show clearly that the pandemic has led to a drastic increase in Afghanistan’s already high poverty rates. Calculations indicate that poverty might have increased from a baseline of 54.5% up to 72%.
Household Consumption During The Pandemic
Analysis shows that poverty impacts will be unevenly distributed across the population. Even though both urban, as well as rural areas, are significantly affected, the poor people in the urban areas are impacted the most. For rural households, the decrease in consumption is greater for the well-off because of their dependence on vulnerable activities in the service sector like shopkeeping, transportation, etc. and a slightly higher food price effect.
The impact of poverty on the crisis on households with respect to working women is more or less the same in magnitude compared to those who only depend on male employment. Among other susceptible groups, households which identified themselves as displaced because of conflict and those who had returned from refuge are even more adversely affected.
Even though they represent only a small amount of the national population, which is 2% and 11% respectively, the increase in poverty in these households due to the pandemic has been larger compared to the average rise in poverty in the country. In the worst-case scenario, poverty climbed from 46% to 69% for displaced households, whereas it jumped from 53% to 75% for returning households.