Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, a country home to not only the most kind-hearted and hospitable human beings, but also unspoiled landscapes and dazzling valleys, once part of the historical Silk Road is once again at the crossroads.
In August 2021, the Taliban took over Kabul, initiating a new episode in Afghanistan’s 40 years of conflict. A humanitarian and human rights crisis is rapidly unfolding in Afghanistan as the country once again falls under Taliban rule.
Afghanistan has seen massive changes, but one thing is clear: The Afghan people cannot pay the price for these changes. Humanitarian needs in the country remain massive.
Dramatic scenes at the Kabul airport of Afghans desperate to leave the country, and horrific bombings there, captured the world’s attention in the weeks after the Taliban took power. The United Nations has warned that up to half a million Afghans could flee the country by the end of the year and has called on neighbouring countries to keep their borders open. More than 500,000 people have been displaced since President Biden announced in April plans to withdraw US troops, some 80 percent of whom are women and children. This brings the total number in need of humanitarian aid to more than 18 million.
As Kabul airport remains the epicenter of global attention in Afghanistan, world leaders must not forget the urgent needs of Afghan women and girls. Women in Afghanistan are facing rising levels of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation. As of August 2021, the international humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan is only 38 percent funded. That shortfall could mean that 1.2 million children will lose specialized protection services, making them more vulnerable to violence, recruitment, child labor, early and forced marriages, and sexual exploitation. And 1.4 million women — many of them survivors of violence — will be left without safe places to receive comprehensive support.
The crisis is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. All 34 provinces have declared a COVID-19 situation similar to India’s situation. As of Sept 6 2021, 153,534 COVID-19 positive cases have been reported, of whom 7,141 died. Vaccine coverage remains very low. Vaccine hesitancy is not the primary issue, rather it is adequate supply and administration of vaccines. A survey conducted by Arash et al. shows that 63% of participants are willing to receive the vaccine. Afghanistan has received 3,068,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and was expected to receive 2,192,000 additional doses in the upcoming month, and the US had promised 1,400,000 million doses. However, such efforts have been halted because of Taliban insurgency.
Experts say drought and severe water shortages have compounded instability and conflict in Afghanistan for decades and are worsening a humanitarian crisis precipitated by the withdrawal of US and allied troops. More than 10 million Afghans are facing acute food insecurity caused by prolonged drought. 14 million people, around 35% of Afghanistan’s population, were already facing acute food insecurity before the Taliban takeover, according to the WFP. Half of all Afghan children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition.
Water and land scarcity have increased community-level conflict, poverty and instability, which in turn have driven environmental degradation and the depletion of resources. Since 1950, Afghanistan’s average annual temperature has increased by 1.8 ºC, according to the climate security expert network. Heavy rainfall events have increased by between 10–25% over the past 30 years. Climate change is expected to bring more frequent and intense extreme events, such as droughts and flash flooding, to the country in upcoming decades.
Additionally, the mental health needs will further increase due to the political, humanitarian and COVID-19 crises. An estimated half the population has dealt with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress, and inter-generational trauma is likely to further increase future needs. The withdrawal of US and NATO troops has raised many more questions for Afghanistan’s security, particularly for the rights and freedoms of women. However, funding and resources for mental health remain woefully inadequate in Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly unfolding as a humanitarian crisis. We are seeing images and stories of violence and despair on a daily, sometimes even an hourly basis.
If you are looking at practical ways to help, here are some suggestions to support refugees from Afghanistan locally, nationally, and internationally.
1. Show you support for policy change
2. Donate or Volunteer
3. Help for refugees in the community
4. Own a business? Sponsor a refugee
And many other ways.
“I stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and the aid workers who support them through crisis after crisis.”