Rows of mud huts put together in a rush. Plastic roofs popping out in the dusty spaces. Improvised tents tucked into the corners of narrow streets.
Millions of displaced and impoverished people in Afghanistan have found a safe haven in the enclaves around bigger cities, which over time have grown into slum-like areas.
Today, these crowded spaces host entire communities driven out of their homes by decades of conflict, disasters and political instability.
It is also here that one can meet people hit the hardest by the sudden economic collapse which followed the end of the war in Afghanistan – the highest price that most Afghans have been paying for peace.
The world was unprepared for the lightning-quick takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in August last year. The international community felt it was left with few options but to cut off Afghanistan’s main lifeline – foreign aid, which the country had historically been almost entirely dependent on.
Over the past year, millions of lives have been hit by the strict measures leading to the withdrawal of development support and limitations imposed on the country’s financial systems.
The liquidity crisis, cash shortages, the collapse of the banking system and Western sanctions – for the displaced people dwelling in makeshift settlements, the complex financial terms circulating in the Afghan context stand for only one thing: shocking levels of poverty.
Staggering numbers of Afghans are unable to access their salaries or lifetime savings, while the increased costs of living and scarce job opportunities have driven entire families into mounting debt.
Most people have nothing to spend and shrinking demand for basic goods has forced small businesses to shut down. In the shadow of the Ukraine war, the prices of food and essential products have skyrocketed, placing them out of reach for the destitute communities.
There are approximately 2.5 million people living in Afghanistan’s slums. For them and many others across the country, survival is a struggle and the daily price they are paying for this fragile peace.
*This photo essay is provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council