Afghans fear poverty as banks limit access to cash and hundreds line up at ATMs after Taliban takeover
Sara, a resident of Kabul, quickly runs out of everything she needs: food for her family and medicine for her sick mother.
The political upheaval in Afghanistan has wreaked havoc on the capital’s banks and ATMs, leaving Sara’s family to survive on less than $ 47 a fortnight, and with no guarantee that they will be able to get more money.
- Afghan assets held abroad have been frozen
- Local banks limit withdrawals and transfers
- Hundreds of people line up daily to withdraw money and meet their daily needs.
Banks in Kabul closed their doors last month as the Taliban advanced.
Some reopened last week, but with restrictions on the amount of money locals could withdraw and transfer.
Sara said she could only withdraw enough money for her family to stock up on food and medicine for the next few days.
“Our food was finished, the money we had left to spend was finished, my mother’s meds were finished,” she said.
“But there is no money in the bank. They told me they couldn’t give me much.
Sara’s family survives on a basic food supply at home and her mother, who suffers from respiratory illness, regularly needs an oxygen tank.
“The small amount of flour that we had at home that we use. It’s just bread and tea that we eat.”
Sara worked for a market research firm before the Taliban took control of Kabul and was a medical student at the university.
As soon as she learned that the Taliban had taken over Kabul, she rushed home. But by then the banks had already closed.
“They told us, ‘Your wages have expired.’ There is no more salary, everything is in the bank and we have no more money, “she said.
She will have to make a trip to the bank again this week, as the money she withdrew a fortnight ago has already been spent on supplies.
She will have to join a long line, with the chance that she will have to leave empty-handed as the cash supply is limited.
“Our struggles are getting worse day by day. We have no future,” said Sara.
Another Kabul resident, Hamid (not his real name), is also in desperate need of access to his savings.
After spending a week regularly at the ATM and waiting in a huge crowd, he was able to withdraw around $ 270.
That’s enough to give her a few more days of basic supplies, but not enough to cover her debts.
“I have borrowed money from friends so far, but if it continues like this we will be bankrupt,” he said.
“People even sell their houses to find money and get on with their lives.”
Hamid was a translator for a foreign non-governmental organization before the Taliban took power.
His office remains closed. Her 128 colleagues hope their company will help them leave the country, although she has not responded to requests.
Hamid will return to the bank this week to try to withdraw more money. But he is deeply concerned about his future, as he now has no income.
Liquidity crisis deepens outside Kabul
The International Bank of Afghanistan said its branches were open with limited services due to “cash availability”, especially outside the capital.
“Due to logistical issues in recent weeks and the expectation that cash tickets are not delivered to provinces at this stage, cash availability is expected to be initially limited in Kabul,” he posted on its website.
“Our provincial branches operate on an even more limited basis, and the ability to make withdrawals will depend on the availability of cash tickets, even within the above limits.”
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have halted funding for Afghanistan as the international community decides whether or not to recognize the Taliban as the country’s legitimate government.
Most of the Afghan assets held abroad have been frozen by the US central bank, and credit agencies are warning the economy is on the brink of collapse.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as fuel, food and medicine run out and half the population lives in poverty.
Afghanistan’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, said banking sector executives met with its acting governor Haji Mohammad Idris to discuss solutions to the current crisis.
He said the current restrictions limiting transactions with customers were temporary and he was still working on a solution.
But there was no news regarding access to central bank reserves.