Child Marriage in Afghanistan
With limited resources and an absence of income to support themselves, Afghan families may sell their children to make ends meet, resulting in a significant level of child marriage in Afghanistan. To illustrate, the 9-year-old Parwana Malik family sold her to Qorban, a 55-year-old man, for $2,200 in an arrangement of sheep, land and cash. Thinking about what her future holds as a wife to Qorban, Parwana fears her husband will beat her and force her to work in his house. Regrettably, however, Parwana’s family does not have enough money to afford necessities to keep all its members alive and healthy. In fact, before her family sold her, it sold Parwana’s 12-year-old sister.

Background of Child Marriages in Afghanistan

Child marriage in Afghanistan can cause suffering and damage in a child’s life. For example, many child brides experience domestic violence, discrimination, abuse and poor mental health. Child marriage in Afghanistan is common but illegal. The minimum age for marriage is 15 or 16 years old for women and 18 years old for men. In the past, many families opted for child marriages to pay back any personal debts, settle disputes, or create friendships with rival families to decrease their enemy count.

In 2016, the National Ministry of Women and the Ministry of Information and Culture created the National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage, bringing organizations from 90 different countries together to help end child marriage in Afghanistan and ensure the legal age of marriage be 18.

However, this act was short-lived. Now, with the increasing hardships of acquiring money and jobs, Afghanistan families are selling their young daughters “for large dowries from wealthy people, and the husbands are usually much older,” according to UNFPA.

Afghanistan is a country that has always relied on foreign aid, with 75% of its finances coming from grants from the United States and other countries. Unfortunately, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the country’s economy worsened, leading to difficult living conditions for many people.

Poor Economy Causing an Increase in Child Marriages

When the United States military withdrew, the Western powers and international organizations stopped sending humanitarian aid by blocking overseas equipment and valuables to focus their time on taking the Taliban away from power.

Additionally, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) halted payments. As a result, Afghanistan workers and people are not receiving income to feed themselves and pay for other expenses, leading to families selling their children for money.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “recent surveys have revealed that only 5% of families have enough to eat every day.” Not only are they not receiving enough money to support themselves, but there has also been an increase in food and cooking oil prices and the country has lost about 40% of its wheat crops.

As winter approaches, WFP mentions that Afghanistan families will run out of food, pushing them further to the brink of starvation. For example, to avoid selling his daughter, Parwana’s father would travel to the main cities of Afghanistan hoping to find a job, but he was always unsuccessful.

In addition, he would ask for money from other family members, while his wife would beg their neighbors for food, but they received little assistance. Having to take care of eight other family members, Parwana’s father felt obligated to sell Parwana to keep the rest alive, according to CNN.

Where Afghanistan is Receiving Help

Fortunately, WFP is helping Afghanistan’s dire situation and improving their nutrition to rebuild their strength. According to WFP, it has “provided 6.4 million people with food assistance, including more than 1.4 million people since the Taliban takeover.”

In September 2021, WFP sent 10 trucks into the country with nutritional supplements for young children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Currently, WFP has a team of people in the most remote parts of Afghanistan to deliver food to communities they might not reach in the winter months due to blockades of snow.

Not only is WFP asking for $2.6 billion in 2022 in aid for Afghanistan, but the U.N. has made an emergency appeal for $606 million to meet areas that need it the most. Although the United States and other countries are not sending any aid into the country, Afghanistan is receiving relief elsewhere, improving the lives of many and decreasing the number of child marriages in Afghanistan.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Refugees from Afghanistan
After 20 years out of power, in August 2021, the Taliban seized the capital of Kabul after the collapse of the Afghan government. With many Afghans opting to flee the country in search of safer and more stable pastures, the nation’s neighboring countries are experiencing an increase in refugees from Afghanistan. Although the reign of the Taliban brings increased instability to the country, Afghans were already fleeing the nation years prior. In fact, apart from fearing that “[the Taliban] will impose harsh rule, neglect to provide basic services and abuse human rights, “many Afghans are leaving due to the severe humanitarian crisis in the nation. Due to these worsening conditions, countries and organizations are trying to assist vulnerable Afghans.

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

In October 2021, Afghanistan’s poverty rate stood at 72%, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expects this rate to increase to a staggering 98% by the middle of 2022. Moreover, about 19 million Afghans are suffering from acute levels of food insecurity. Because of these conditions, people are fleeing Afghanistan in search of a better life. According to the UNHCR, almost 6 million Afghans face forced displacement. Estimates indicate that there are about 3.5 million internally displaced Afghans and roughly 2.6 million Afghan refugees residing in other nations. Compounding issues further, Afghanistan is facing a severe drought that has already led to the malnourishment of 50% of Afghan children.

The Taliban Takeover

The Taliban is a group of religious students from Afghanistan who aim to seize power to “restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law.” The Taliban began taking over parts of Afghanistan in 1994. In 1996, the group took over the capital of Kabul, and by 1998, had garnered control “over most of the country.”

During its time in power, the Taliban imposed harsh laws “forbidding most women from working, banning girls from education and carrying out punishments including beatings, amputations and public executions,” among other horrific punishments and restrictions. In 2001, a United States-led invasion is able to remove the Taliban from power. Unfortunately, “the Taliban reemerge” in 2006. In April 2021, after “President Biden announces the withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of September 2021, the Taliban gains traction taking over more areas. By August 2021, the Taliban seizes the capital of Kabul.

Halting Aid to Afghanistan

With the Taliban in power, Afghanistan is facing a colossal economic crisis. Afghanistan was heavily dependant on international aid even before the Taliban takeover — 40% of its GDP comes from foreign aid. The World Bank has stated that “about 75% of public finances were supplied by grants from the U.S. and other countries.” Now, the Afghani currency has lost all its value.

In August 2021, when it became apparent that the Taliban would seize Afghanistan, global powers, such as the United States, chose to halt foreign assistance to Afghanistan, as did the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Furthermore, before, families relied on money from family members outside of the country. However, Western Union and MoneyGram removed their assistance and services in Afghanistan, causing the deprivation of money from families abroad.

Evacuating Afghans

Days after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the United States began the evacuation process of Afghans. In truth, the United States helped evacuate about 125,000 people for relocation. Unfortunately, thousands of Afghans who hoped to leave the country did not have the opportunity to evacuate, even some with passports. Many of the evacuees received special visas for “their service alongside coalition military forces” or their work “with foreign-funded programs.” A more minimal number of evacuees able to board the planes as refugees from Afghanistan were “Afghans seeking visas or asylum based on their fear of persecution due to their identity.”

Refugees from Afghanistan Receive Assistance

Due to the influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the United Nations has requested that countries nearby “keep their borders open.” In September 2021, several governments pledged to “resettle refugees from Afghanistan,” including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica. The countries specify maximum intake numbers, with some only accepting Afghans who fall into a specific vulnerable group or who hold specific jobs. The U.S. also pledged to take in 62,500 Afghans by the end of September 2021.

Amid a crumbling nation and citizens facing dire conditions, the international community is giving hope to Afghans for a better future with several countries willing to assist in the relocation of refugees from Afghanistan.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

New Initiative to Combat Poverty in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster. Immediately after the United States’ exit from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban assumed full power, seizing the nation’s capital, Kabul. Just months later, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that Afghanistan’s $20 billion economy could shrink by 20%, plunging the nation further into poverty. However, the international community is not turning a blind eye. Instead, UNDP has launched a new initiative to combat poverty in Afghanistan.

UNDP Launches ABADEI

In October 2021, UNDP launched the Area-based Approach for Development Emergency Initiatives, also known as ABADEI. ABADEI is a new initiative to combat poverty in Afghanistan and is a part of a broad effort to “operationalize a basic human needs approach within the complex and fast-evolving context of Afghanistan.” UNDP explains the ABADEI strategy best, stating that ABADEI “provides an articulation of investments in basic services, livelihoods and community resilience that complement humanitarian efforts by helping households, communities and the private sector cope with the adverse effects of the crisis.”

Specifically, ABDEI has the backing of a Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan. UNDP created this special trust fund in October 2021 to provide cash assistance to Afghans in dire need, independent of a third party. Germany was the first country to financially commit to the trust fund, pledging nearly $60 million. The trust fund has since grown to more than $170 million in December 2021.

ABADEI, then, is the strategy that directs the flow of the money. Under the ABADEI initiative, program coordinators will implant funds into the community in four main ways.

4 Main Funding Channels

  1. Allotting grants to microbusinesses. A 2019 OECD report on private sector development and entrepreneurship in Afghanistan estimates that entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for nearly 99% of businesses in the country. The report also states that “with foreign assistance declining and the country still struggling to attract private investment from abroad, Afghan entrepreneurs and SMEs will have to be the engines for much of the needed development.” This first goal particularly seeks to assist women-owned businesses as women face disproportionate impacts of poverty during times of crisis. Under ABADEI, program coordinators will distribute cash in local currency and assess needs with the help of local community leaders. The U.N. hopes that the direct injection of cash will help keep local economies from collapsing.
  2. Cash-for-work projects. The second goal of the initiative is to provide “short-term income to the unemployed.” USAID data from November 2021 indicates that nearly 40% of Afghans endure poverty. In 2020, before the Taliban took over, unemployment stood at slightly less than 12%. Although there is no official number for the rising unemployment rate, reports indicate that people are resorting to selling their own possessions to survive.
  3. Financial support to at-risk populations. The director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Qu Dongyu, states that women, young children and the elderly are at risk of starvation during the winter in Afghanistan. To mitigate these impacts, ABADEI seeks to provide a “temporary basic income” to the at risk-populations of Afghanistan.
  4. Strengthening natural disaster resilience. Afghanistan is prone to natural disasters including flooding, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. ABADEI will help Afghanistan mitigate such disasters by funding the “rehabilitation of canals” and other “flood protection” strategies to safeguard farming land from the destruction of floods. By preemptively protecting farmland, ABADEI aims to reduce the risk of increasing food insecurity in the nation.

Looking Ahead

Achim Steiner, a UNDP administrator, said at a press conference that “ABADEI is a concrete contribution to the efforts of the United Nations to protect the hard-won development gains achieved over the past 20 years and prevent further deterioration of Afghanistan’s fragile local economy.” Though the future of Afghanistan is unclear and the country faces numerous challenges, ABADEI stands as a new initiative to combat poverty in Afghanistan, marking an integral first step in the international community’s efforts to safeguard the well-being of Afghans after the Taliban takeover.

– Richard Vieira
Photo: Flickr

Universal Poverty in Afghanistan
According to the UNDP, 97% of Afghanistan could be in poverty by 2022. This would be a quick plummet considering current UNDP data shows that only 54.5% of Afghans live below the poverty line. This is not particularly good either but is significantly better than the predicted more than doubled rate. This drastic predicted change is a result of a combination of things. Food prices and food insecurity are skyrocketing while economic and essential services experiencing interruption. COVID-19 is still prevalent and presents an active struggle. Those in rural communities and poor urban areas are feeling these problems quickest and hardest. If drastic change does not occur soon, there will undoubtedly be universal poverty in Afghanistan.

UNDP Predictions

The political turmoil of the Taliban resuming power, paired with economic and humanitarian issues, is creating a “full-on development collapse,” according to UNDP regional director Kanni Wagnaria. The UNDP’s 97% prediction is a worst-case scenario.

The prediction is based on 2018 estimates of the country’s GDP declining between 3.6% and 13.2% in the 2022 fiscal year. This depends on how the crisis continues and how other economies interact with the new Taliban leadership. This is a huge contrast to the previously predicted 4% GDP growth under the previous Afghan government.

Local Area-Based Programme

In response to these predictions, the UNDP has created a proposal of strategies to intervene and improve the current living conditions for those in poverty in Afghanistan. The “Local Area-Based Programme,” has four core elements: “provision of essential services, community-based livelihoods and local economies, disaster and climate-resilient response and social cohesion and inclusion participatory processes.”

The major goal of the program is to support approximately 9 million impoverished people over the course of 24 months. Another goal is to ensure the prediction of universal poverty in Afghanistan does not occur.

Local community groups, NGOs and small businesses will lead and implement this program. Within the plan, the most vulnerable would benefit significantly from cash-for-work grants for small and medium businesses and specifically within women-owned businesses. Households including children, the elderly and those with disabilities would receive a temporary basic income as well. There will also be assistance for natural disaster mitigation such as flood protection for farmlands.

ABADEI

The UNDP officially launched the program called ABADEI in October 2021. The primary goal is providing “immediate humanitarian assistance” while keeping the local economies moving. The first priority of the program is to help the people of Afghanistan meet their basic needs, with a focus on health and food security. As it raises more funds and receives more donations, ABADEI will be able to move into other priorities outlined in UNDP’s intervention strategies.

A significant indicator of outcome in the coming months and into 2022 will be how Afghanistan will do in the coming months and how the Taliban chooses to lead the country. The Taliban should be able to avoid the possible universal poverty in Afghanistan but it must make the decision to do so.

As of early September 2021, the Taliban had not reopened government offices. This is leading to many other industries such as banks and universities remaining closed as well, according to the UNDP. This has led to unstable employment and grave uncertainty among most of the country.

Additionally, expectations have determined that the Taliban could restrict capital, likely leading to inflation. This would reduce purchasing power and cause food prices to rise. The number of people below the poverty line would be even higher.

Much of what will happen to Afghanistan is relatively uncertain, yet rather imminent. Nevertheless, there are organizations such as UNDP that are being proactive and involved before universal poverty in Afghanistan becomes reality.

– Alex Mauthe
Photo: Unsplash

Foreign Aid to Afghanistan
Some definitions of foreign aid provide a distorted vision of its purpose. This in turn drives citizens, government officials and donors away from supporting it. An accurate definition of foreign aid is one country helping to improve a recipient country’s standard of living through economic, military and various other services. Donors provide this type of support after war or natural disaster. The recent withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is slowly concluding more than 40 years of conflict. However, foreign aid to Afghanistan remains necessary.

Afghanistan’s Violent Past

More than half of the population in Afghanistan lives on $1.90 a day. In headlines, history books and news stories, many do not see Afghanistan beyond the label of an economically developing country. This label often comes from a place of unfair judgment.

The longevity of the Afghan crisis is why aid is vital in transforming the country to work toward a better quality of life and future for the younger generations. The detrimental relationship between the state and citizens has damaged every part of what is necessary for a society to flourish. For example, the top-down monopoly with profiteers and warlords on top formed to control economic markets producing bottom-up violence is a significant barrier in the country flourishing. Understanding the nature of the conflict that has created a dystopian climate throughout the country is vital in producing foreign aid to Afghanistan because planning for the long term is what will produce change.

Antony Blinken’s Push for Reform

The U.S. is the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, but reform is necessary for providing quality aid for the future. During secretary of state Antony Blinken’s visit to Afghanistan on April 15, 2021, he spoke on several areas of reform to ensure the foreign aid sector continues to progress and attend to the needs of Afghanistan.

The U.S. is studying previous aid distribution models and methods to ensure that country receives the maximum amount of help. This also promotes other governments to continue the change. The U.S. plans on holding the Afghanistan government accountable to the pledge of acknowledging the basic human rights of their citizens. For example, traveling outside of the country has been nearly impossible for Afghan citizens. The U.S. will also hold the Taliban accountable for using Afghanistan as a base for formulating attacks on other countries. Neutralizing any form of threat prevents damage to other countries that would ultimately produce the need for more foreign aid and will push away allies.

The U.S. will ensure even aid distribution throughout the country. It will have clear communication with the Taliban in the coming years. The Taliban must allow aid groups to work on uninterrupted terms. Overall, the U.S. is enforcing long-term change through rectifying the relationship between the state and citizens that has been upholding the unlivable climate.

The Future of Foreign Aid to Afghanistan

The narrative of putting a stop to the current war or any war in the future is an unreachable goal. Foreign aid will not go towards a single issue. Instead, it will focus on changing the systemic problems that continue to produce wars. The U.S. often uses a militant approach, however, with the updated forms of foreign aid, it will not be using violence to overcome it. This includes $64 million in new humanitarian assistance which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will distribute. This new surge of funding will provide a large range of assistance including shelter, essential health care, sanitation, food aid, hygiene services and more. These are forms of aid that will contribute to the overall building of a better livelihood for Afghan citizens.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which U.S. Congress introduced in 2004 is an agency separate from the State Department and USAID. It continues to abide by its mission statement of reducing poverty through economic growth by providing aid to countries like Afghanistan. The U.S. has also developed a range of grants and programs to assist Afghan women who the civil upheaval greatly impacted. USAID continues to provide grants in helping Afghan women gain access to universities through the Women’s Scholarship Endowment.

The US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM)

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) funds several programs for Afghan women refugees and internally displaced persons. The programs include literacy training, gender-based violence prevention and mother-child health care. PRM works with various partners to ensure change including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In large groups, varying interests can prevent the proper allocation of funds to aid. However, the government and donors continue to work closely together. The impact that aid has extends beyond providing food and emergency medical assistance. It has the potential to provide a hopeful future for those who have only known living in a war zone. It reconciles individual relationships within the society. As aid strategies are revised to adhere to current needs the long-term quality of life for Afghan citizens will improve.

– Maggie Forte
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has experienced many crises in recent decades, with several domestic and international conflicts transpiring within the nation’s borders. Afghanistan’s economic crisis as well as conflicts and droughts aggravate rates of food insecurity in Afghanistan. With the recent Taliban takeover in August 2021, the country is seeing a collapse in food security. On October 25, 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a warning that millions of Afghans may face starvation during Afghanistan’s winter unless the world responds with urgent intervention. Understanding the challenges that Afghanistan and its people face, many international organizations are providing both donations and aid to alleviate food insecurity in the nation.

The Food Insecurity Situation in Afghanistan

According to the WFP in October 2021, more than 50% of Afghans, approximately 22.8 million citizens, are enduring severe food insecurity. Furthermore,  about 3.2 million Afghan children younger than 5 years old are at risk of acute malnutrition. In a WFP news release, the executive director of the WFP, David Beasley, says, “Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises, if not the worst.”

The full Taliban takeover that came to fruition in August 2021 debilitated an “already fragile economy heavily dependant on foreign aid.” In an effort to cut off support to the Taliban, many nations chose to suspend aid to Afghanistan and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chose to halt payments to Afghanistan. For a country with about 40% of its GDP stemming from international support, vulnerable Afghans are hit heavily with the impacts of aid suspensions as food insecurity rates in Afghanistan continue to rise.

In September 2021, the U.N. warned that just 5% of Afghan families have sufficient daily food supplies, with essential ingredients like cooking oil and wheat drastically rising in prices. In October 2021, the WFP warned that “one million children were at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without immediate life-saving treatment.” WFP also predicted that the looming winter would further isolate Afghans depending on humanitarian assistance to survive. With overall food insecurity rates skyrocketing, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities. The WFP stresses the importance of continuing international aid to Afghanistan so that citizens can survive the coming months.

The Aid Dilemma for Global Economic Powers

“If we do nothing, Afghanistan drifts into state collapse. The economic chokehold is squeezing the air out of the economy,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group (ICG), in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor on November 4, 2021.

The danger of a total state collapse is so concerning that European donors “are trying to expand stopgap emergency measures to find creative ways to alleviate the financial challenge faced by the central Taliban government in Kabul.”

The challenges of providing support remain. The U.N. estimates that as much as 97% of the country’s population could live in poverty by 2022 “in a worst-case scenario.” However, recognizing the severe consequences of aid suspensions, in October 2021, “The Group of 20 major economies” pledged to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. As a global powerhouse, the United States also announced its intention of providing aid to Afghan citizens as the harsh winter season starts. However, these countries are skeptical about providing aid directly to the Taliban government, therefore, aid will likely come through international agencies.

Aid to Afghanistan

Recognizing the need for aid, international organizations worked tirelessly to deliver food, blankets and monetary assistance “to hundreds of displaced families in Kabul” in October 2021. Humanitarian assistance from different global agencies found a way into Afghanistan. Even though the distribution of aid only reached 324 families, a very small percentage of the total needs of the nation, this aid gives hope to many Afghans who are experiencing severe food shortages.

Rising food insecurity rates in Afghanistan highlight the desperate need for aid. With many donors creatively developing ways to help the Afghan people, during a time of crisis, the country is hopeful for a brighter future.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Max Pixel

Poverty and Mental Health in Afghanistan
Forty years of turmoil and armed conflict fuels poverty’s role on mental health in Afghanistan. Poverty and increased violence exacerbate Afghanistan’s poor mental health. It is a cycle that has been going on since the Cold War’s end, creating an environment that forces people into poverty rather than them receiving the assistance they require.

Aside from the cold facts that Afghanistan imports the majority of its electricity and that the majority of the country still lacks access to it, Afghanistan also suffers from severe famine, drought and a lack of basic sanitary needs. Combined with years of civil war, terrorism uprisings and military coups, the high number of poverty and mental health issues does not seem so surprising.

Mental Health Suffers in Afghanistan

Although little data on mental health in Afghanistan has undergone compilation, Afghanistan has had an increased number of mental health conditions and poverty among its population over the years, primarily since 2001. Currently, the poverty rate in Afghanistan sits at 72% but projections have determined that it could rise to 97% due to the Taliban’s takeover. In addition, the expectation is that poor mental health in Afghanistan will worsen as a result of current violent regime changes in a country with a history of violence, uncertainty and civil war.

The World Bank reported in 2011 that, “Conflict and other factors such as unemployment, general poverty, breakdown of community support services, and inadequate access to health services have not only damaged the social infrastructure of the nation, but also caused mental health disorders mostly in vulnerable groups like women and disabled people.”

Support is Necessary and Overdue

Since then, the number of conflicts, impoverished and mentally impaired people in Afghanistan has increased. The International Psychosocial Organisation (IPSO) has provided the most recent data on mental health in Afghanistan out there in an annual report from 2019 which covers the drastic gap in mental health needs and facilities. The report states that 70% need mental health support.

Another report, from the Refugee Documentation Center in Ireland, found that in 2019, more than 50% of the population suffers from anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while only 10% could actually seek help. Although many of these cases are due to exposure to violent conflict over the last four decades, many organizations also suggest a strong link between extreme poverty conditions and mental health. About 40% of Afghanistan’s people, who suffer from PTSD, relate their experience back to a lack of food and running water.

The National Mental Health Symposium, which the Ministry of Public Health of the Government of Afghanistan held in 2019 explains how poverty, conflict and unstable living conditions contribute to the rise in poor mental health in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s Effect

As the Taliban transforms the government of Afghanistan to how they see fit, mental health facilities and doctors are at risk of shutdown due to the Taliban’s negative views of Western practices. Both the World Bank and the IPSO report that religious and cultural traditions create barriers to treating mental health in Afghanistan.

TABISH in Afghanistan, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides mental health support, education and human rights support suspended its operations just one week after the Taliban took over the government. “There is no international support because we cannot have staff in our organization. Not just for us but many organizations [and] there is no guarantee for our staff if we find support,” Dr. Aria, the founder of TABISH, said in a phone call with The Borgen Project. “There is a high demand for mental health right now, people are traumatized.”

Aria also noted that the majority of the staff at TABISH in Afghanistan were women, and the sudden change in women’s rights, aside from the loss of income, are causing even greater mental health strains now. “Going from conflict to conflict, poverty, discrimination against women, high unemployment and many more things are causing a high demand for mental health services in Afghanistan,” Dr. Aria said. In the preceding weeks, Dr. Aria left Afghanistan with his family due to safety reasons. They are staying in the United States at the moment.

Help is More Possible Now More than Ever

Mental health support has become more readily available in Afghanistan over the last decade. World organizations, such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations, are making it a top priority to help stabilize the health systems in the country.

Through continued international support—not just from organizations but individual countries as well—the conflict-torn country’s mental health community can gain the facilities, power and attention needed to begin the end-cycle of poverty and poor mental health in Afghanistan.

– Ali Benzerara
Photo: Flickr

Irish Aid
Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, announced an additional €2 million in Irish Aid support less than two months after the initial €1 million, crediting the severity of the “rapidly deteriorating humanitarian [need] in Afghanistan” as the reason for the additional support. In children under the age of 5 years old, there is a high level of food insecurity and the risk of malnutrition. Minister Brophy stated in the press release that “One in three Afghans is facing crisis levels of food insecurity and more than half of all children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.”

Ireland Aid Can Make International Changes

The aid that Ireland is providing has the potential to save lives and serve as a model for other countries to follow. Showing the actual impact of aid on Afghan refugees can also spark a positive reflection on the Afghan community, rather than the negative connection from recent conflicts.

Only a month prior, Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney announced €1 million in Irish aid for humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. This initial assistance was in addition to the €2 million that the HALO Trust, Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH) and Concern Worldwide received at the start of 2021.

The funds will go to UNICEF and the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH). The AFH assists with the health, education and nutrition of the Afghan people.

Changing Visa Policies

On top of the Irish Aid support, Ireland has extended its refugee visas policy for up to another 150 Afghan people under the Irish Refugee Protection Program (IRPP). Ireland strongly condemns the violent action against the people of Afghanistan, especially the attacks against women and children.

It has called for safe and reliable access to humanitarian needs in Afghanistan for Aghani citizens and those who work with U.N. agencies and humanitarian partners, without exemptions. This means that even those across conflict lines must get the humanitarian access they need for safety.

Refugee Visas to Make a Difference

Ireland, which many know for its strong advocacy for women and girls, is attempting to play a role in relocating some Afghan women and girls to Ireland. There will be a priority for those who work in human rights issues and those who work with NGOs, including European and international organizations. Family reunification is also at the top of Ireland’s list in regard to the 150 refugee visas.

This is not the only way for Afghans to obtain refugee visas. There are a few protocols in place that help Afghans obtain refugee visas as long as they meet or find a way to meet the criteria. According to the 2015 International Protection Act, if an Afghani person already knows someone in Ireland who can handle their international protection application or if they have someone who will meet them at the border, they are exempt from the application fee. Deportation has also experienced less strict enforcement since COVID-19. Given the current state of Afghanistan, there is no clear answer to whether someone would experience deportation.

At the end of the day, Ireland is doing everything it can to assist with the humanitarian need in Afghanistan. In this time of crisis, it uses funds, policies and aid to do what it can. By expanding its visa list to accept more refugees, Ireland demonstrates that it will do everything possible to assist another country’s crisis.

– Veronica G. Rosas
Photo: Unsplash

Aiding Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been experiencing challenges economically, socially and politically. While these situations are affecting its citizens and the world, children and women are the most vulnerable members of the community, leading to many being impoverished, but there are ways that people/organizations are aiding women in Afghanistan.

About the Situation

Uncertainty has been governing Afghanistan since the outbreak of the crisis. Many escalations in violence have occurred since the impositions of new authorities. Over half a million of the population have demanded humanitarian assistance.

After 40 years of social crisis, poverty, several natural disasters and the outbreak of COVID-19 and the Taliban rule have increased poverty rates drastically. Both factors are a deadly combination for people in Afghanistan. About “50% of those in need in Afghanistan are women and girls.” Summing up, the outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed thousands of people to poverty, especially women and girls, affecting global poverty rates.

Women and girls are the most vulnerable group in society. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is highly worried about how women and girls will overcome the situation in  Afghanistan. As a fundamental human right, women’s rights must receive respect. By consequence, all services must undergo proper delivery, ensuring all women and girls have access to health services, to freely work and go to school.

The Concerns of the International Community

The international community is aware that as the crisis escalates, women living in poverty in Afghanistan increase too. Levels of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation are dramatically increasing as global poverty rates are tremendously increasing. Elinor Raikes, IRC vice president and head of program delivery states, “We know that during times of crisis, violence against women and girls increases. With uncertainty mounting throughout Afghanistan, the IRC is concerned that we could see an increase in violence against women as well as an increase in child marriage.”

The international community is heavily working on reducing global poverty on reducing poverty in Afghanistan. It is essential for world leaders to drive an international plan and work on the solution. Since August 2021, the international humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan has received only 38% of its necessary funding. According to data “the 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.”

Challenges for Women in Afghanistan

Data has demonstrated that women are the most vulnerable group in society. Since the outbreak of the crisis, “1.4 million women, many of them survivors of violence, will be left without safe places to receive comprehensive support.”

Several attacks have been taking place in small villages and schools. As a result, many girls will lack access to education. According to the report published by UNICEF, “An estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan. 60% of them are girls.” Undoubtedly, girls are the ones suffering the major consequences of the crisis in Afghanistan, impacting global poverty.

The challenge of women in Afghanistan is a significant topic across the world today. The Taliban is constantly oppressing women and limiting women’s rights. Thus, gender equality which had been progressing in the country has suddenly diminished as the new authorities are pushing back all the effort done. As mentioned above, many girls are not going to school and women have been limited the rights they had. As a consequence, women in Afghanistan fall into poverty as they cannot access a job.

How Some are Aiding Women in Afghanistan

The World Bank has highlighted a few of the national programs established in Afghanistan to help women and mobilize social groups. Women Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEE-RDP) is the most popular national approach in Afghanistan. As the World Bank reported, “These groups help their members access financial services and start small businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-help groups have also provided critical support for health and livelihoods.”

In conclusion, the Taliban’s rule is becoming a major concern for the world. Undoubtedly, national and international approaches have undergone implementation with the purpose of aiding women in Afghanistan and reducing poverty.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr