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Afghans are worried about winter hardships amid a tanking economy

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

More than 90% of people in Afghanistan don't have enough food to eat. That's according to the World Food Programme. Under Taliban rule, a collapsed economy and growing unemployment have plunged the country into extreme poverty. And as NPR's Arezou Rezvani reports from Kabul, many families are worried about how they'll make it through the winter.

(SHOUTING)

AREZOU REZVANI, BYLINE: There's a certain scene that unfolds across Afghanistan with alarming frequency these days.

So we're at a food distribution site here in central Kabul. We're watching aid workers fill up wheelbarrows full of bags of flour, jugs of oil, a bag of salt.

This food aid goes to families like Mari Jaan (ph). A little over a year ago, Mari's husband supported their family of five. He helped people make sense of their visa applications. But when the government collapsed last year, so too did their lives.

MARI JAAN: (Non-English language spoken).

REZVANI: Her husband lost his job. Then he got ill. And ever since, Mari's family has relied on this aid. But it's been getting harder and harder to get by.

JAAN: (Non-English language spoken).

REZVANI: "The power, the water, it's all been shut off," she tells me. "It's been impossible to afford the bills."

PHILIPPE KROPF: We are seeing a changing face of hunger in Afghanistan since last year.

REZVANI: That's Philippe Kropf of the World Food Programme.

KROPF: With the vanishing of jobs, with the economy in a meltdown situation, we're now seeing people standing in line for food assistance who never would have believed in their lives that they ever will be standing in line for food.

REZVANI: Former members of the Afghan military, teachers, even employees of the resurrected Taliban government wait in food lines these days. The World Food Programme says Afghanistan's harvest was much lower than expected this year. That means more families are turning to this aid when there's much less to go around.

KROPF: When we talk to people at our distribution sites, everybody tells us last winter was difficult, but we have no idea how we will get through the coming winter.

REZVANI: Aid organizations are also in a tough spot, Kropf says. The war in Ukraine has caused a spike in food and energy prices. The WFP's food basket is about 20% more expensive than last year, making this an exceptionally challenging winter for getting aid and giving it.

(CROSSTALK)

REZVANI: Back at the distribution center, Mari talks of the winter with a great deal of anxiety.

JAAN: (Through interpreter) We're not prepared. We don't have coal. We don't have wood. And we definitely don't have enough to eat.

REZVANI: And on top of all of that, she adds, she's also running out of hope.

Arezou Rezvani, NPR News, Kabul, Afghanistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Arezou Rezvani is a senior editor for NPR's Morning Edition and founding editor of Up First, NPR's daily news podcast.