Amid High Prices, Kabul’s Hungry Rely On WFP

Published on 24 February 2009

WFP food means Bobogul, 60, can afford the medicine she needs

(Copyright: WFP/Susannah Nicol)

Food prices have soared in Kabul over the last year, leaving 60-year-old widow Bobogul struggling to get by. Like many of the poorer residents of the Afghan capital, she now receives WFP food regularly and thanks to this assistance is able to afford her medicine again.

Bobogul, 60, has been finding it hard to get by. Recently widowed and now the head of the house, she has nine people to feed. Her son tries to find work, but casual labour is erratic and the wages haven't kept up with food prices. Bobogul, like thousands of other Kabul residents, is relying on one of WFP’s recently launched urban food distributions.

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"We are poor. We have always been poor," she says as she stands with a group of people outside a house which serves as the distribution point for the zone. "At least when my husband was alive and the prices were lower we were able to afford meat, maybe once a week.  Not now.  We can’t even meet our daily needs." The other women who have congregated around her murmur in agreement.

Food in market is out of reach

The scene is a familiar enough story in rural Afghanistan, where food is often scarce. But this is Kabul. Not far away is a bustling market where there are stalls overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables and hunks of meat hanging from butcher’s hooks.

Nowadays many people are too poor to afford the food that is available. It’s the result of a poor harvest last year and high food prices the world over. Local food prices have soared, so much that at times in some parts of the country, people have had to spend 85 percent of their income on food alone.

Bobogul continues: "I have a health problem but I can’t usually afford medicine.  My clothes are old and have been given to me by other people.  Last night we didn’t have fuel for a fire.  It was very cold and we were all shivering, especially the children."

Bobogul's sack of WFP wheat

Finally it’s Bobogul’s turn to collect food. She approaches a window and hands over her identification papers and her ration card. The card is stamped and then a man pushes out a wheelbarrow on which is sitting Bobogul’s sack of WFP wheat.

Once a month on distribution days, Bobogul's son waits outside the gate with his bicycle.  He heaves a 50kg sack of wheat onto the back of it and together they begin the journey home.

The family live in a two-roomed mud brick house high above the city.  It’s a steep and exhausting trek, Bobogul says. But she says it's worth it.

"This food that I take home lasts my family about 10 days and I’m so happy.  It means that some of the money my son earns during that time can be spent on a few other things, like my medicine." 

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about the author

Susannah Nicol

Spokesperson for Somalia

Susannah worked for WFP in Afghanistan for 1 year before moving to East Africa. She is based in Nairobi.