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Afghans struggle for survival under Taliban

Plus other international stories from this week

A mother and child in the malnutrition ward of the Ataturk National Children’s Hospital in Kabul on Dec. 2 Associated Press/Photo by Petros Giannakouris

Afghans struggle for survival under Taliban

Inside the maternity ward of a clinic in central Afghanistan, several cleaners tired of working without pay have quit. Regular power outages have impeded ongoing surgeries and killed premature children when their incubators fail.

“It is so sad to see them dying in front of your eyes,” Dr. Nuri, an obstetrician at the hospital, told the BBC.

Afghanistan was already suffering from drought and the effects of years of conflict. But the Taliban’s hasty takeover in August and the withdrawal of foreign support brought on economic collapse and a dire humanitarian crisis.

Since taking over, the Taliban has responded to the international blockade by restricting cash withdrawals at banks. Many workers said they have gone without pay for months. The country’s flailing economy and health sector relied on international aid that ceased following the takeover. Dr. Mustafa, a doctor in a northern Afghanistan village, told the World Food Program that parents are selling furniture, animals, and homes to buy food. The International Crisis Group warned a state collapse is increasingly likely and called for the United States and other Western players to change their approach to the Taliban.

Nearly 23 million people, accounting for 55 percent of the country’s population, are facing extreme levels of hunger, the United Nations reports. UNICEF estimates half of children under 5 in Afghanistan will be acutely malnourished in 2022 due to the food crisis and lack of access to key social services.

Alexander Matheou, the Asia Pacific director with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the country is facing its worst drought and hunger crisis. “I have spoken to doctors who are reporting increased cases of acute malnutrition amongst children,” he said. “It will only get worse in the weeks ahead.”

Empty streets in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Dec. 10 as workers stay home for a “silent strike”

Empty streets in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Dec. 10 as workers stay home for a “silent strike” Associated Press

World radar

  • MYANMAR: A freelance photojournalist in Myanmar died in military custody after authorities detained him last week while he covered demonstrations. Soe Naing was photographing a silent strike against military rule in the city of Yangon. The military has detained more than 10,000 people and killed more than 1,300 others since the February coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Civilians have pushed for sanctions on the country’s gas revenues to cut military funding.
  • INDIA: A shelter run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity is facing charges of forced conversion. The police launched a probe this week into the Home for Girls in western India after a social defense officer and other officials reported the girls were forced to wear crosses. The report said the girls were forced to join Christian prayers and the shelter kept Bibles in one of the rooms “to compel them to read.” Gurajat, the home state of Hindu nationalist President Narendra Modi, is one of several Indian states with anti-conversion laws. Sunita Kumar, the charity’s spokesperson, told The Indian Express the allegations are untrue and asked for prayers for the accusers.
  • NIGERIA: Abductors in central Nigeria this week confirmed the death of a pastor kidnapped in November. The attackers seized Rev. Dauda Bature of the Evangelical Church Winning All from his farm on Nov. 8. They later captured his wife on Nov. 18 while she made ransom payments but released her on Dec. 6. Church leaders negotiating with the criminals said the abductors later revealed Bature died a while ago. Kidnapping and banditry remain common across central and northwestern Nigeria.
  • RUSSIA: Foreign ministers in the European Union on Monday sanctioned Wagner Group, a Russian private military company, for its actions in Ukraine and parts of Africa. The asset freezes and travel bans target the company as well as eight individuals and three associated entities. The EU accused them of human rights abuses, destabilizing activities, and looting natural resources in some countries where they are active. Wagner, which operates on behalf of private and state interests, is present in Libya, the Central African Republic, Ukraine, Syria, and potentially Mali.
  • MALI: French troops withdrew from a major military base in the Malian city of Timbuktu on Tuesday, ending nearly nine years of military intervention in the country’s persistent insurgency. France earlier announced plans to withdraw more than 2,000 troops from the Sahel region of Africa by early next year to refocus on anti-extremist operations and training local armies. The French forces had already left two bases farther north. The country faces increasing political instability after Col. Assimi Goita staged two coups in less than a year and was sworn in as interim president. Despite mounting regional pressure, the military junta said it will likely not meet a February deadline to hand over power to civilians, citing the country’s worsening insecurity.

Africa brief

I’ve received some messages from readers on Twitter, but I haven’t used it as much since the Nigerian government banned the social media platform in June. The move came after Twitter deleted one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s posts and temporarily suspended his account. Authorities say they will lift the restriction once Twitter meets 10 conditions, including paying taxes, setting up a physical office, and regulating tweets. Senegal, Chad, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also blocked social media or internet services this year.

—WORLD has corrected this page to reflect that Bamako, not Timbuktu, is the capital of Mali.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.



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