Afghans are giving their hungry children medicines to sedate them – others have sold their daughters and organs to survive. In the second winter since the Taliban took over and foreign funds were frozen, millions are a step away from famine.
“Our children keep crying, and they don’t sleep. We have no food,” Abdul Wahab said.
“So we go to the pharmacy, get tablets and give them to our children so that they feel drowsy.”
He lives just outside Herat, the country’s third largest city, in a settlement of thousands of little mud houses that has grown over decades, filled with people displaced and battered by war and natural disasters.
Abdul is among a group of nearly a dozen men who gathered around us. We asked, how many were giving drugs to their children to sedate them?
“A lot of us, all of us,” they replied.
Ghulam Hazrat felt in the pocket of his tunic and pulled out a strip of tablets. They were alprazolam – tranquilisers usually prescribed to treat anxiety disorders.
Ghulam has six children, the youngest a year old. “I even give it to him,” he said.
Others showed us strips of escitalopram and sertraline tablets they said they were giving their children. They are usually prescribed to treat depression and anxiety.
Doctors say that when given to young children who do not get adequate nutrition, drugs such as these can cause liver damage, along with a host of other problems like chronic fatigue, sleep and behaviour disorders.
At a local pharmacy, we found that you can buy five tablets of the drugs being used for 10 Afghanis (about 10 US cents), or the price of a piece of bread.
Most families we met were sharing a few pieces of bread between them each day. One woman told us they ate dry bread in the morning, and at night they dipped it in water to make it moist.
The UN has said a humanitarian “catastrophe” is now unfolding in Afghanistan.
A majority of the men in the area outside Herat work as daily wage labourers. They have been leading difficult lives for years.
But when the Taliban took over last August, with no international recognition for the new de-facto government, foreign funds flowing into Afghanistan were frozen, triggering an economic collapse which left the men with no work on most days.
RELATED: Taliban lashes 14 people in Afghanistan football stadium for adultery, robbery
Fourteen people have been lashed in a football stadium in eastern Afghanistan, according to the Taliban-led Supreme Court.
It was the second confirmation of lashings by the Taliban this month, signalling a possible return to practices common with its hardline rule in the 1990s.
“Fourteen people, including three women were lashed in the presence of scholars, authorities and people … for different sins including adultery, robbery and other forms of corruption in a football stadium in Logar [province],” the Taliban-led Supreme Court said on Twitter, adding two other people had also been lashed in eastern Laghman province.
The Taliban’s supreme spiritual leader met judges this month and said they should carry out punishments consistent with sharia law, according to a court statement.
RELATED: In Afghanistan’s shadowy new conflict, new displacement and new civilian abuses
The UN has accused the Taliban of ‘collective punishment’ as it tries to quell a brewing rebellion.
Six months ago, Sadullah’s life changed forever.
His family, including his eight children, had madedo with life under the Taliban. That was until the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), an armed opposition movement, tried to wrest control from Taliban fighters in Panjshir, and their once-peaceful province became the front line in an emerging conflict.
“We managed to live with the Taliban on the streets. Some were even nice,” the middle-aged man recalled.
But as the fighting has intensified, the UN has documented how Taliban fighters have become increasingly confrontational with the civilian population, noting one case where intelligence officials arrested a shepherd on 31 May, allegedly for being a member of the NRF. Two days later, his body was delivered to his family “bearing marks of severe beating with sticks and metal rods and of electric shocks”, according to the UN.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter