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How Donors Can Respond to the Crisis in Afghanistan

Courtesy of The International Rescue Committee.

Two-year-old Rafiullah lived in Lashkargah, a city in southwestern Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, he was asleep when shrapnel shattered his window and set his blanket on fire. He and his family fled to a camp in Kandahar for internally displaced people, where a UNICEF mobile health unit was able to tend to his burns.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 300,000 Afghans have been internally displaced — with the diaspora coming to a head in recent weeks as the crisis continued to escalate.

The transfer of power in Afghanistan portends greater instability in the region and the need for humanitarian assistance. The number of people in need of aid has doubled since 2020, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), with civilian deaths and injuries at a record high in just the first half of the year. More than 550 Afghan children have been killed and 1,400 injured since the start of 2021.

“There is a double crisis facing Afghanistan right now: a visible crisis, of thousands of people trying to leave the country from Kabul. And an invisible crisis of millions of people across the country dependent on humanitarian aid, who cannot leave the country,” said David Miliband, IRC president and CEO.

During this volatile and uncertain time, donors are asking how they can help. CapShift is advising that donors give first — prioritizing grant-making to ensure that aid and relief reach the greatest number of Afghan families, children, and refugees. We have also been in touch with our partners on the ground to understand their work and how donors can support them.

The International Rescue Committee is raising funds to meet the humanitarian needs of displaced individuals and families within Afghanistan, those that have fled to neighboring countries, and Afghan refugees that are being resettled in the U.S.

IRC’s staff in Afghanistan — 99% of whom are natives — provide displaced families with shelter, clean water, and other necessities. They also work with communities to identify and execute long-term development projects, help individuals find livelihood opportunities, and provide safe learning spaces.

UNICEF is also on the front lines in Afghanistan. The organization, focused on aiding women and children, provides displaced families with necessities such as safe water, vaccines, and family hygiene kits. Recently, after hundreds of families fled to Kabul from conflict in Kunduz, Sar-e Pol and Takhar, UNCIEF set up tents to provide spaces for children to play and rest.

“UNICEF has been in Afghanistan for 65 years. We’re not leaving now,” said Sam Mort, Chief of Communication at UNICEF Afghanistan. “We’re staying, we’re neutral, we’re humanitarian and we’re here for every child.”

In the U.S., IRC’s staff is working to support newly arrived Afghans, helping meet immediate needs such as food, housing, and transportation. IRC has received more than 25% of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) arrivals and anticipates supporting thousands more in the coming months. In addition to delivering these immediate necessities, funding will also support IRC’s interpretation and translation capacity, trauma-informed counseling, and efforts to reunite families.

This immediate relief is necessary to tide refugees over, but long-term investment and support is also critical to help those displaced find their footing and prosper in their new home.

Kiva, a pioneer in extending patient capital to refugee communities emphasizes, however, that donors should lead with humanitarian aid at this time. “Ultimately, Kiva wants to ensure that the immediate response and attention is focused on pure philanthropy and humanitarian assistance,” said Will Jacobsen, Head of Investor Relations and VP, Strategic Investments at Kiva.

As the media spotlight shifts away from the situation in Afghanistan, it is important to remember that the crisis persists. CapShift encourages donors to explore grant-making options to provide immediate humanitarian aid — as well as continue supporting Afghan refugees as they adapt and rebuild in the months ahead.




CapShift is an impact investing platform that empowers philanthropic and financial institutions along with their clients to mobilize capital for social and environmental change.

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CapShift empowers philanthropic and financial institutions, along with their clients, to mobilize capital for social and environmental change.

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