Samira, 9, and other children from the orphanage walk to the school bus in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 12, 2021. Samira wants to become a doctor when she grows up. I want to serve my homeland and save others from disease, and I also want other girls to study so that they become a doctor like me in the future, she says with a sheepish grin. Due to her age, Samira is now able to go to school outside of the orphanage and is able to go to extra classes to get ahead. Hardship has not dented her ambition, but she also recognises that in order to achieve her goals, she may have to go abroad for studies. I am not allowed to study here REUTERS Jorge Silva.
KABUL, Oct 15 Reuters - Ahmad Khalil Mayan, programme director at a large Kabul orphanage, says he is cutting the amount of fruit and meat given to children each week because the home runs out of money.
Since the Afghan Taliban invaded control of the country and millions of dollars in aid gradually dried up, he has been desperately calling and emailing donors, both local and foreign, who had supported him before.
Unfortunately, most of them have left the country - foreign donors, Afghan donors, embassies and embassies. If I call them or email them, no one answering me, Mayan told Reuters at the sprawling Shamsa Children's Village in the north of the capital.
We are now trying to run the place with very little money and with little food, he added.
There are around 130 children in an orphanage aged three years upwards. It has been operating for more than a decade and provides shelter for those who lost both parents or just one of them that cannot afford to keep them.
Among them is nine-year-old Samira, from the northeastern province of Badakhshan province, who has been at the orphanage for nearly two years after her father died and her mother did not have the means to support her or her brothers.
In Kabul the play on a cool day in the playground is played with as much intensity as she studies, grinning widely as she moves up on the swing. Despite her young age, she was already taking extra classes and wants to become a doctor when she grows up.
I want to serve my homeland and save others from disease, and I also want other girls to study so that they can become a doctor like me in the future, she told Reuters, with a sheepish grin.
Orphanages like this play an outsize role in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in wars that have ravaged the country for more than 40 years.
The lack of funding, which has hit charities, non-governmental organisations and ordinary Afghans since the hardline Islamist Taliban movement took back control of the country, is forcing Mayan into tough choices.
The orphanage tried to send a few children back to relatives who were comparatively well-off, but one by one they have returned.
Mayan said staff had to stop eating portions and eat only the types of food children eat.
Before we provided them twice a week rice and twice a week meat, but we cut those items just once a week or maybe not even that much Facing an economic crisis as winter approaches, Taliban officials have demanded Western governments to resume aid donations and called on the United States to lift a block on more than $9 billion in Afghan Central Bank reserves held overseas.
Many countries have refused to recognise the Taliban, who were until recently a jihadist insurgency fighting Afghan troops and their foreign allies.
Some governments are demanding that the group guarantees basic civil freedoms, including allowing girls to attend secondary school and women to work.
The Taliban, which banned all Girls education when they ruled from 1996 - 2001, have said they are working on the issue.
Compounding the orphanage's problems is the weekly limit of $200 on bank withdrawals to avoid a run on hard currency, meaning access to funds is not enough for the children and staff.
Mayan fears that if the situation continues, the orphanage will not be able to function much longer.
This would be devastating for the children, receiving math, English and computer lessons as well as physical education, not to mention food and shelter.
Samira, the aspiring doctor, is still able to go to school out of the orphanage premises because her age, and she attends extra tuition classes in the afternoon to get ahead.
Hardship has not dented her ambition, but she also recognizes that in order to achieve her goals, she may have to go abroad to study.
I am not allowed to study here.