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Afghans sell possessions as livelihoods crush, cash dries up

Afghans are reduced to sell their possessions as livelihoods crush, economy plummets and cash starts to dry up in the banks. The question is how long would these possessions last and for how long Afghans can sell them to pay for their food? Who is taking responsibility for all of this?

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Afghans sell possessions as livelihoods crush and economy plummets with Kabul’s markets filling up with their belongings. This reflect their helplessness and plight as they are forced to sell their possessions at rock-bottom and meagre prices to fill their stomachs, pay for food or fund their flee from the Taliban 2.0 rule which they fear might be as bad as before.

Plates, glasses, and kitchen appliances are piled high on makeshift tables at the outdoor bazaars, alongside 1990s television sets and old Singer sewing machines, while rolled-up carpets are propped up on second-hand sofas and beds.

Read more: $600 million to avert Afghanistan humanitarian crisis: UN

Afghans sell possessions to survive as livelihood crush

Since the Taliban stormed to power in mid-August, Afghans say that their livelihoods have crushed with job opportunities drying up in the market. Also, they are only allowed to withdraw $200 per week from their bank accounts which bear testimony to cash crunch and economy plummeting.

“We don’t have anything to eat, we are poor and we are forced to sell these things,” said Mohammad Ehsan, who lives in one of Kabul’s hillside settlements and came to the bazaar lugging two blankets to sell.

Ehsan said he used to work as a labourer, but building projects have been cancelled or put on hold.

“Rich people were in Kabul, but now everybody has escaped,” he told AFP and added that now everyone rich and poor is in the same boat.

He is one of many Afghans who come to the flea markets to sell what they can spare directly to buyers, carrying their possessions on their backs or rolling them along on rickety street carts.

Read more: Looking at the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan

Taliban’s claims of peace and prosperity are suspicious

He has lived through “change after change” in Afghanistan, and says he is wary of the Taliban’s claims of peace and prosperity, as basic food prices skyrocket — like they did when the Taliban were last in power from 1996 to 2001.

“You can’t believe any of them,” Ehsan said.

Impoverished Afghanistan was already facing a drought, food shortages, and enormous pressure on its health service caused by the Covid-19 outbreak before the Taliban took control, sparking western nations to clamp down on aid that props up the Afghan economy.

The United Nations Development Programme warned last week that the percentage of people living under the poverty line could rise from 72 percent to 97 percent by the middle of next year, without rapid action.

Also the World food Program highlighted that one-third of Afghan 38 million people were living below poverty line and United Nations fear that grave humanitarian crisis there would imminently bring the country to collapse. Thus, the UN has urged nations to release Afghanistan assets and cash flow, otherwise within six months, the country would go hungry.

Read more: The Taliban 2.0 and its implication for Pakistan

Tales of woes and helplessness

Further into the bazaar, people work to repair electrical goods such as stereos, fans and washing machines before selling them on.

Teenage boys press carrot or pomegranate juice on mobile stalls, while others weave through the crowds with bananas, potatoes and eggs in wheelbarrows.

Ragmen — the shopkeepers who buy and sell used goods — said they have never been so busy.

Mostafa, speaking from his shipping container that serves as his shop, told AFP that many people he had bought from were travelling to the borders in hope of leaving the country.

“In the past, we would buy stuff from one or two households in a week. Now, if you have a big shop you can have the contents of 30 households at once. People are helpless and poor,” he told AFP.

“They sell their stuff that is worth $6,000 for about $2,000,” he added.

Mostafa, who said he has no plans to leave, said buyers at his shop were often those who had fled rural provinces for the safety of the capital when the Taliban launched their sweeping offensive.

Another ragman, who did not want to be named for fear of his safety, told AFP he had only set up his stall in recent weeks.

“I was a trainer in the military for 13 years,” he said, adding he lives in fear of the Taliban as a consequence.

“Unfortunately, our society got turned upside down, so we were forced to do other things.

“I became a ragman — we had no other option,” he said.

As becoming ragman is the only option, hunger, poverty, social demise and desperation is now reigning in Afghanistan and the intensity of which know no bounds. Selling possessions out of desperation is indeed the last nail in the coffin and if no possessions are left to be sold then how would the people stay alive or make a living? These are serious questions the new Afghan government, United Nations and US need to answer. If Afghans are reduced to sell possessions, how long would they last?

Read more: China and Pakistan provide relief to Afghans while the West still ponders

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