The Plight of Afghan People

Afghanistan is no longer in the headlines, but the plight of the Afghan people is desperate. NATO forces, who were there for 20 years, have been withdrawn. The Taliban are in power. Many people have lost their jobs, the economy collapsed after foreign aid ended overnight, the currency has lost almost half its value, the harvest failed because of the worst drought in 30 years, prices have rocketed, and the country is in the grip of bitterly cold winter weather. In what was already one of the poorest countries on earth, where millions have been widowed or disabled, now 23 million people, more than half the population, face starvation. A million children may die, and it is feared more people may die from hunger than the war.

Fatima is 8 years old, and her future is already decided. She looks very sad and says she would like to go to school and study. But she has been sold in marriage to a man she has not met, to buy bread and time for her starving family. Fatima sits on the floor in the family’s mud-walled dwelling in western Kabul around an unlit stove with her parents, siblings, widowed aunt and grandparents, all shivering, hungry and coughing. In 2010 her father, Lala Jan, suffered severe burns when their house in Sangin was bombed during fighting between Taliban and British forces. He spent 8 months in hospital and moved his whole family to Kabul.

Now Lala Jan has no job and no income and is still in debt for £1400 for the treatment to his burns. A few months ago, his family were so hungry that, in desperation, he sold Fatima for £630 to buy food. She will be collected when she reaches puberty. After that her fate will be in the hands of the family that bought her. Then, last week, the lenders came to collect repayment for his debt. Lala Jan offered them his three-month-old baby daughter Naghma. He told them he had nothing else to offer them and they said they would think about it.

Our hearts go out to Lala Jan and his family, and many others like them. We don’t know them, but we care deeply and are heartbroken about their desperate plight. Like us they bear the image of our Creator and have all the same hopes and aspirations we have. We pray that, somehow, they will survive and know happier times. We also know that God cares for them because his Son, Jesus, sympathises with them. He faced the same kind of trials we do and now is in heaven. He can give them and us grace to help when we need it most.