Bangladesh – which has in recent times extended loans to Sri Lanka and the Maldives – is also home to about 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, writes Samina Akhter for South Asia Monitor
The Taliban may have been quick in seizing power in Kabul following the abrupt withdrawal of the US, but the developments have landed Afghanistan in an unprecedented economic mess.
The catastrophe in Afghanistan is overwhelming, with an estimated 55 percent of the population facing hunger, lack of shelter and other social services. More than 23 million Afghans stare at acute hunger, nine million children are malnourished and 3.5 million people are forcibly displaced.
Afghanistan was already reeling under drought as a result of never-ending conflicts. The bad news has come in the winter season. With freezing temperatures expected to drop by minus 25 degrees Celsius, millions might be exposed to starvation, famine, winter diseases and terrible deaths.
Some experts warn that hunger and poverty following the Taliban takeover could kill more Afghans this winter than all the violence did over the past two decades.
Till December 15, aid worth almost $1.6 billion had been provided to Afghanistan. According to UNOCHA, the US and European Union provided the largest amount of aid. Neighboring countries such as Pakistan and India have also stepped forward by supporting humanitarian assistance.
But this is not enough. Funding remains a challenge as a further $4.5 billion is needed.
The 17th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held in Islamabad last month, decided to launch immediate assistance for Afghanistan. Bangladesh promptly responded by saying it will provide food and medical support. Dhaka’s quick response was lauded by many.
Bangladesh – which has in recent times extended loans to Sri Lanka and the Maldives – is also home to about 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Despite many diplomatic efforts, their repatriation has been hanging for a long time.
It is not easy for Bangladesh, already an overpopulated country, to house so many refugees. One reason why Bangladesh has managed is that it has recorded impressive growth economically in the last decade. This will make it more capable of offering help to other nations in crisis as well.
What the world needs to do now is to cooperate with Afghanistan to save millions battling hunger and poverty.
(The author is a Dhaka-based woman and human rights activist. The views expressed are personal. She can be contacted at email@example.com)