Since the Taliban takeover of the government of Afghanistan, a humanitarian crisis is affecting millions of people across Afghanistan. The economy has been struggling, and millions of people, especially women, have lost their jobs and incomes. Acute malnutrition is widespread—nearly 90% of households suffer from food insecurity, and 19.7 million people are experiencing hunger. Today, 28.3 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian aid.
More than 9 in 10 people live in poverty in Afghanistan. The increase in poverty has put women and girls at increased risk for violence, including forced child marriage, domestic abuse, and human trafficking. Media report that some Afghans sell their body parts, especially kidneys, and at times sell their daughters so that desperate families can feed the rest of their children.
Humanitarian crisis in numbers:
- 28.3 million people in humanitarian need as of 2023
- More than 9 in 10 people live in poverty in Afghanistan
- 85% of Afghans live below the poverty line
- About six million are on the brink of starvation
- 35% of the population is facing acute food insecurity
- More than half a million people have lost of been forced out of their jobs
- There are 19.7 million people living in acute food insecurity – representing nearly 50% of the population
- 3.2 million children and 804,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished
Humanitarian aid ≠ not recognition
Nearly all donor countries around the world agree that under these horrid circumstances, humanitarian aid is needed. Although engagement is needed for the delivery of humanitarian aid, engagement does not equate to recognition. Sanctions against the Taliban should continue to ensure that they are held accountable and retain pariah status. Humanitarian aid must also be provided in a way that prevents the Taliban from controlling the funding and distribution.
The solution is limited engagement with technical staff by the donor countries in order to meet the Afghan people’s urgent humanitarian needs. Engagement does not mean large-scale collaboration, and countries can strategically work to meet the basic needs of Afghan people through limited engagement with the Taliban. Humanitarian aid can and should be provided through the United Nations, as well as Afghan and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). All Afghans should have access to distribution of food and other assistance, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion.
Women must be involved in the distribution of aid. In particular, aid groups should seek out female heads of households, many of whom are widows due to more than four decades of war in Afghanistan. Single and widowed women are especially vulnerable because Taliban rules prohibit women from leaving their homes “unless necessary and only with a male escort,” making a paid job for single women to support themselves nearly impossible to sustain.
Humanitarian aid must continue to increase
As of 2023, the U.N. and partner countries launched an appeal for more than $3.23 billion in funding for Afghanistan to help rebuild basic services. However, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that donors have contributed only 15% of that – $477.7 million – to Afghanistan humanitarian assistance programs so far, noting a steep decline in donations. Funding is essential for…
- Emergency cash relief
- Trauma care
- Vital health services
- Protection against gender-based violence
- Increased development,
- Reintegration assistance to internally displaced and returnee populations, as well as Afghan refugee populations in neighboring countries and throughout the world.
Aid funding must help people help themselves.
Many Afghans want economic independence. Afghan women’s rights leaders have strongly encouraged funding for women to restart and establish small businesses. Microloans and education in specialties like technology, finance, and other areas are some ways for women to gain the capital they need beyond humanitarian aid. Humanitarian assistance, no matter how large, is not enough to sustain a country long-term.