Afghan School
Despite the ban on education for girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, India’s only Afghan educational institution, Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan High School, is providing quality education to the refugee children of Afghanistan. Located in Delhi’s Jangpura Extension, the Afghan high school runs on a rented building with more than 30 teaching and non-teaching staff members, most of which are women.

Challenging the Taliban ban on girls’ education, the Afghanistan Ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay, said in a tweet, “Young Afghan girls who want to be educated will not be stopped, at least in New Delhi. These girls will one day contribute to a stronger and more prosperous Afghanistan. Women share this planet 50/50 however over the past 15 months harsh and unnecessary restrictions have been put on.”

Sustaining Since 1994

Women’s Federation of World Peace, a women’s nonprofit organization, set up the Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan High School in 1994 for refugee children from Afghanistan living in New Delhi. The then government of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani, started funding the school at a request from the center. This educational center expanded to become a primary school in 2008 and then a high school in 2017. The school is a hope for more than 250 students, of which 65% are girls, according to India Narrative.

The medium of instruction comprises three different mediums, namely, Farsi, Pashto and English. The school is culturally rich and provides the students with all necessary extracurricular activities. It has more than 10 clubs that work to enrich the knowledge and intelligence of students with practical skills and experience.

The Taliban Takeover and Pandemic Setback

The Afghan high school struggled with funding when the pandemic hit the nation in 2020 and imposed a country-wide lockdown. The Taliban overtake in Afghanistan affected the high school in Delhi enormously as the newly built government of the Taliban stopped the smooth flow of funds. The school failed to pay rent for the school premises due to which they had to vacate the space and hold classes online. They were out of salaries to pay to the teaching staff, The Indian Express reported.

However, India’s Ministry of External Affairs stepped in and helped the school in times of difficult situations. Afghan Ambassador Mamundzay expressed gratitude towards the Ministry of External Affairs on Twitter.

Looking Forward

Currently, the Afghan school holds offline classes in two shifts as the space does not allow all the students to study at the same time. The school successfully conducted its mid-term exam for the academic year 2022-23 in December 2022. The school is also looking for various private and municipal schools which can provide them with 14 to 15 classrooms to hold evening batches.

– Aanchal Mishra
Photo: Pixabay

Zan Times
The foundation of the journalistic outlet Zan Times stands on a specific objective: Giving Afghan women their voices back through a new media platform. This recently released platform covers the human rights situation in Afghanistan through “a women’s-led newsroom” as one of its main focuses is women’s rights. On October 20, 2022, Zahra Nader introduced herself as the editor-in-chief of Zan Times and spoke at the U.N. to discuss the struggle Afghan women and girls face every day under the new Taliban rule. She also highlighted “why women’s representation—in peacebuilding, in journalism and everywhere else—matters,” U.N. Women reported.

Since the occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2021, the situation for women and girls in the country has deteriorated, leading to more inequality and poverty. In a May 2022 statement, Sima Bahous, the U.N. Women executive director, said, “Current restrictions on women’s employment have been estimated to result in an immediate economic loss of up to $1[billion] – or up to 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP.”

The Background

Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, fell to the reign of the Taliban on August 15, 2021. The new regime has led to a regression in “[women’s] rights, their condition and their social and political status” due to restrictions on women’s mobility, access to education, employment and other economic resources and rights, according to a press briefing by Alison Davidian, country representative a.i. for U.N. Women in Afghanistan.

“Before 15 August 2021, 17% of women participated in the labor force nationwide; this decreased by 16% by the end of October 2021,” U.N. Women reported.

The exclusion of women from areas of life such as education and employment harms a country’s economic development. Over the past five decades, rising levels of educational attainment have stood as a driving factor behind the economic expansion of OECD countries. Furthermore, “women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity [and] increases economic diversification [as well as] income equality,” according to U.N. Women.

Zahra Nader

Zahra Nader is an Afghan-Canadian journalist and editor-in-chief of the Zan Times. After starting her journalistic career in 2011 in Kabul, she moved to Canada six years later to pursue higher education and is now studying toward a doctoral degree in feminist studies.

“Today, an estimated 20 million women and girls who grew up in Afghanistan going to school, to work, who grew up being able to go where they liked and to speak their minds, are, under the Taliban, deprived of these fundamental human rights because of their gender. Women have been ordered to stay home. Girls have been banned from attending school above sixth grade,” said Nader in October 2022 at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security.

A New Hope

Zan Times is a media platform that aims to provide a different view on human rights violations by focusing on the perspective of those resisting rather than those committing the violations and collecting the work of journalists, writers and activists. Apart from Afghan women, the Zan Times also focuses on other marginalized groups, such as sexual minorities and particular ethnic groups. By documenting the experiences of these individuals, Zan Times ensures the world hears the voices of the marginalized.

For instance, the platform’s reporters write about the experience and commentary of female activists resisting the Taliban regime. In August 2022, the reporters had the opportunity to interview Robaba (the pseudonym that the interviewee uses), who, before the return of the Taliban, worked as the “editor-in-chief of a newspaper and owned an art gallery in Balkh province.” She shared her experience opposing the new restrictive government.

This approach allows readers from everywhere in the world to identify and understand the struggle while also giving voice to those who the Taliban silenced. Zan Times also allows activists to share their initiatives to raise awareness of current events in Afghanistan. For example, Zan Times interviewed British-Iranian producer Ramita Navai who recently released Afghanistan Undercover, a documentary showing an undercover investigation into the Taliban’s repression of women in Afghanistan.

Looking Ahead

Giving Afghan women a platform to voice their experiences is a powerful initiative. Girls and women in Afghanistan are currently facing a difficult reality. Even though the future of Afghanistan is uncertain, the work of Nader and other reporters dedicated to raising awareness and offering opportunities for women to speak their truth provides hope to Afghan women.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Flickr

Earthquake in Afghanistan
In June 2022, the citizens of Khōst, Afghanistan faced the aftermath of a 5.9-magnitude earthquake. The tragedy that claimed more than 1,000 lives is responsible for the annihilation of hundreds of houses, increased poverty in Afghanistan and the need for aid to support Afghanistan’s already large homeless population.

Poverty in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is infamous for having some of the most brutal poverty in the world, with many families living in houses solely made out of mud. Anthony Pantlitz, an immigrant from Guyana, compared the poverty in Afghanistan to “living in the 17th century” because of their lack of basic necessities such as electricity, plumbing and water.

In 2020, nearly half of the population of Afghanistan was living below the national poverty line. During this year, the mortality rate for children under 5 years old was 58 out of every 1,000. Many Afghan citizens have very low expectations for an improvement of the country’s economy, with 87% reporting a struggle to make enough money to upkeep their household. It is estimated that 95% of the people in Afghanistan suffer from consistent monetary issues and are frequently unable to purchase food.

The Earthquake’s Effects

The earthquake in Afghanistan created even more difficult living conditions for the country’s poverty-stricken citizens. These neighborhoods, already treated as outcasts, note that their future looks grim based on their treatment prior to the disaster. The citizens say that many outside countries have come to their aid with short-lived items, like food and tents, but have not done much more to help them rebuild their now-destroyed region.

UNHCR

UNHCR has prepared to build earthquake-resilient houses in Afghanistan. Funded with $14 million, the project is able to provide the cost of not only the supplies for the homes but around $700 to give each family in order to cover the payment for builders’ labor. With this budget, they will begin to construct over 2,300 homes, 2,000 in Paktika and 300 in Khōst. The houses will be earthquake-resilient and “winterized,” built in order to withstand the grueling winter weather.

UNHCR is also increasing various types of aid for poverty in Afghanistan. The agency, acting on an “emergency response,” has provided water, shelter, heat and much more to families in danger. A very important issue to the UNHCR is providing these items during the winter months, as many families have no more than a blanket to survive the freezing temperatures; the agency has provided “blankets, stoves, solar lanterns, insulation kits and support for heating, clothing and vital household supplies.”

However, UNHCR still urges others to help. A single organization cannot fight an entire crisis on its own, especially because the company estimates that Afghanistan needs around $8 billion to fund its humanitarian plan. With this budget, UNHCR will be able to send out emergency items at a much more rapid pace. UNHCR accepts donations towards decreasing the number of citizens who fall into poverty in Afghanistan.

– Aspen Oblewski
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Support Education in Afghanistan
On August 12, 2022, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced its $40 million partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support education for children in Afghanistan, particularly Afghan girls.

The Issue

The Taliban regained control in Afghanistan in August 2021. Since then, it has placed a ban on girls’ education in Afghanistan, restricting school access for millions of Afghan girls. Tens of thousands of teenage girls cannot access public secondary school (high school), even after the Taliban promised to reopen their schools. Meanwhile, the Taliban has authorized all primary school-aged children to go back to class, including girls, but schooling remains segregated by gender. The Taliban has allowed women to continue their degrees at universities under the condition of  “a strictly gender-segregated system that will dramatically lower the range and quality of women’s options.”

Past Achievements in Afghan Girls’ Education

Previous to the Taliban takeover, support for children’s education in Afghanistan was increasing. Before the ban, 1.1 million girls attended secondary schools. From 2003 to 2017, secondary school attendance for teenage girls increased by 32%, and by 2018 there were 3.8 million female students in the country. This number increased dramatically from the 5,000 girls enrolled in schools in 2001. This increase was also accompanied by a rising number of women in higher education, decreasing the gender disparity in university enrollment.

The Taliban Takeover in August 2021

Following the Taliban takeover in August 2021, “access to safe, quality, and relevant education is no longer a reality for many Afghans.” In Afghanistan, the Taliban has scaled back women’s rights. Countless women are losing their jobs or ability to enter the workforce, and tens of thousands of girls losing their right to an education. “Women are being deprived of their dignity… status at home and in society.” While the Taliban has allowed the reopening of primary schools for both boys and girls, they are to attend gender-segregated classes. In September 2021, the Taliban reopened public secondary schools only to boys, claiming that girls could only return to class under “a safe learning environment.” While some private secondary schools reopened in 10 out of 34 provinces, allowing a limited number of girls to re-enroll, the majority of teenage girls have lost their rights to education in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s Block on Girls’ Education

“In October 2021, Afghan officials announced that girls would be able to resume attendance in government secondary schools but only after the development of a new educational framework.” In January 2022, the Taliban announced plans to reopen schools for girls aged 13 and up in late March. Yet, when the deadline to reopen came earlier this year, the blockage of girls’ education in Afghanistan Only continued. “On March 23, the first day of the school year in Afghanistan, eager female students arriving for class found closed gates and armed Taliban guards who told them to go home.”

The Good News: Afghan Girls’ Dedicated Pursuit for Education

Despite this ban, many Afghans still have the determination to receive an education. An estimated few hundred young female students have decided to continue their educational lessons in secret, whether that be through online resources or in hidden makeshift classrooms. Code to Inspire (CTI) is Afghanistan’s first all-girls coding academy, and the CEO/founder Fereshteh Forough announced the academy’s creation of encrypted virtual classrooms. Through CTI, Forough has helped Afghan girls pursue their right to an education by uploading online courses and providing “laptops and internet packages to about 100 of her students.”

The Aim of the Agreement

The $40 million agreement between USAID and UNICEF will “provide hundreds of thousands” of Afghans with “cash assistance to keep their children in school.” USAID will fund the project while UNICEF will supply the resources needed to assist students during Afghanistan’s “ongoing humanitarian, economic, and political crises.” More specific information about the agreement and the resources it intends to supply is to come. This agreement to support children’s education is especially significant for Afghan girls and women amidst the Taliban’s blockage of schools. USAID did announce that the project intends to support the learning of “foundational skills, such as reading, writing, and math.” In the same press release, USAID emphasized the importance of girls’ education in Afghanistan. When girls in Afghanistan have access to education, they gain access to “resources and tools [that will] support their safety, social, and economic well-being.”

– Ashley Kim
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Afghanistan   
Afghanistan faces an uphill battle in the supply of reliable electricity to rural communities. As of 2016, it produced only 22% of the country’s electricity needs domestically, mainly as hydroelectric (88%). Afghanistan’s rural regions often experience major neglect. In response, the Afghan government, with the help of foreign aid initiatives, is making a proactive shift towards off-grid renewable sources. This implementation of domestic renewable energy sources in Afghanistan will help the country more effectively alleviate poverty.                                                                          

Afghanistan’s Energy Reliance

The import of 78% of Afghanistan’s grid-supplied electricity comes from neighboring Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. However, after the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, the Afghan government has increasingly struggled to pay for imported electricity, due to political instability, dysfunctional public services and the international freeze on overseas assets.

Afghanistan’s dependency only exacerbates its unstable international relations. In 2021, the country faced the daunting prospect of losing power, with only 38% of the 38 million residents having access to electricity. The burden of repaying outstanding bills to neighboring countries weighs heavily on the Taliban government. Meanwhile, independent companies are reliant on international loans to reimburse their neighbors.

Amid the rising insecurity surrounding the availability of electricity, there seems a desperate need for domestically sourced sustainable forms of energy. With this in mind, private organizations and government initiatives have been instrumental in the development and implementation of renewable energy in Afghanistan.

Off-the-Grid Renewable Options

Since much of rural Afghanistan is isolated and mountainous, the cost of transmission to these communities is not always feasible. However, off-grid renewables, that is energy sources that do not have a connection to a central grid system, have proven to be pivotal in electrifying regions without access to reliable power.

In 2002, the Afghan government established the national solidarity program (NSP), and with the help of USAID, managed to implement mini-grid systems powered by micro-hydro and solar projects. These mini-grids allow local communities to manage and take ownership of renewable energy.

Independently-sourced renewable energy can have a myriad of benefits to Afghan society, economy and environment. Organizations like the nonprofit Mercy Corps, with help from the U.K. Department for International Development, have worked with locals in establishing affordable renewable energy. Using a unique funding model, the organization helped bring solar power to a hospital in Lashkargah, Helmand Province, that now has access to electricity 24/7. By merging business incentives and humanitarian objectives, the hospital has been able to repay the initial start-up costs of solar implementation, and now has unlimited access to cheap, reliable off-grid electricity.

A Substantial Cause for Optimism

These initiatives benefit the country’s energy independence while also minimizing the impact on the environment. Mercy Corps has managed to install more than 300 solar systems across the country, and they strive to further integrate these technologies into programs that supply renewable energy in Afghanistan.

Investments in off-grid renewables like solar or micro-hydro can have an important effect on Afghanistan’s development. Access to consistent and clean energy helps alleviate poverty since more people have access to better health care, education and amenities. Furthermore, reliable electricity for water distribution centers and cold-storage facilities helps to sustain the basic needs of rural communities.

– Namra Tahir
Photo: Flickr

afghan-womens-protest-highlights-a-desire-for-more-aidOn August 13, 2022, Afghan women in the capital city of Kabul gathered in front of the education ministry building, to protest human rights abuses by the Taliban including depriving women of the ability to work and participate in politics. They were also aiming to secure more aid and support from nations abroad. The Taliban swiftly responded by chasing and beating the female protestors. The international community, including the U.N. and human rights groups, have condemned the Taliban’s repression of women’s rights.

The Current Situation

The Afghan women’s protest was motivated, in part, by a desire for more humanitarian aid to be distributed to the 24 million Afghans in need. As of August 15, 2022, approximately 20 million of these Afghans are at critical risk of starvation and an estimated 1.1 million Afghan children may face severe malnutrition this year. Drought conditions and a spiraling economy have only exacerbated these issues. Furthermore, the Taliban have restricted women’s right to work and closed school to most girls after the sixth grade. As a result of these restrictions on women, Afghanistan has lost upwards of $1 billion. The government budget this year is a fraction of the 2020 budget and the economy has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid to fund public spending.

The Response from Other Countries

The deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls, has led to increased foreign intervention. For example, the U.S. has admitted more than 81,000 Afghans since the Taliban regained control over the country. Furthermore, on August 12, 2022, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $30 million commitment in support of gender equality and female empowerment in Afghanistan. This money will also be allocated to organizations seeking to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan. However, the Afghan women’s protest shows that these efforts have been too far and in between and highlights the dire need for more international partnership on these issues.

The Efforts of International Organizations

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has also prompted aid from international organizations. In fact, since the Taliban takeover, U.N. agencies have stayed in Afghanistan and provided aid to nearly 23 million people. Moreover, on June 10, 2022, the U.K. provided donations to The World Food Programme (WFP), which allowed the organization to aid 17 million Afghans through cash transfers and food and nutrition support. This helped families address their most urgent needs by putting food on the table.

The Road Ahead

Afghanistan has been plagued by violence and anguish for decades now. Many children and young adults do not know of an Afghanistan that is not war-torn and barren. They do not know of the nation that was on its way to international prominence – this might be the greatest tragedy of all. Despite the havoc caused by the withdrawal of U.S. forces, humanitarian agencies such as the WFP have stayed in the country. Countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K., continue to provide aid to the Afghans in a pragmatic manner. Although this is indicative of the international community’s determination to help Afghans, as the women’s protest has emphasized, there is still a considerable amount of work left to do.

Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in Afghanistan
Since the Taliban overthrew the Afghani central government in 2021, the nation has experienced increased human rights violations such as the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Afghanistan.

Rise of the Taliban

The Taliban, meaning “students” in Pashto, is a conservative political-religious movement founded during the 90s amid the Afghan War which lasted from 1978-1992. The group originated as a modest band of religious scholars and students whose aim was to fight crime and corruption in Afghanistan. After deposing the Soviet-sponsored government, the group went on to establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and institute rigid Islamic law significantly impacting women’s livelihoods, religious minorities and political opponents.

Current Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban launched its campaign to take over Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Soon after the initial assault on September 7, 2021, the Islamic fundamentalist group declared itself as the interim government without communicating its plans for establishing a new central government. Since the hostile takeover, the U.N. has observed growing human rights violations, including forceful censorship of journalists and protestors, regression of women’s rights, worsening socio-economic conditions, an increase in child marriage and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Child Soldiers

The U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report identifies a state’s ability to combat human trafficking and assess the implementation of child soldiers. The Department of State reported Afghanistan as a “Tier 3” country, indicating failure to report cases of trafficking and a lack of serious reduction efforts.

The use of child soldiers in Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon. Before the insurgency, the Afghan government made an effort to address the symptoms of trafficking by developing awareness programs to prepare officials to respond to such cases. Through government-sanctioned Child Protection Units (CPUs), between April 2020 and March 2021, Afghani authorities thwarted the recruitment of more than 5,000 children into armed government groups and programs and identified 20 within the military.

However, the effects of the Taliban’s takeover and the COVID-19 pandemic have hindered the state’s capacity to protect, maintain or counter threats to civil liberties, including the use of children in the militia. Before and after the insurgency of August 15, 2021, the Taliban continued to illicitly use child soldiers in combative roles such as planting and setting off IEDs, carrying out suicide attacks, transporting weapons, standing guard and spying. The Taliban has ceased to investigate, prosecute or prevent cases of trafficking or recruiting. The Insurgent forces continue to eliminate shelters and protective services for victims, resulting in a more vulnerable population.

Without a centralized infrastructure or agency to provide services, Afghan children are more susceptible to recruitment and trafficking. The Taliban has made NGOs operating within Afghanistan useless as the group has imposed crippling restrictions on humanitarian aid, ransacked the few remaining shelters and threatened humanitarian staff. The Taliban has recruited children in Afghanistan from madrassas or religious schools. The children are indoctrinated and prepared to fight in exchange for protection. Moreover, the Taliban also targets children from Afghanistan’s more impoverished rural regions, exemplifying the role of poverty in the assimilation of children into the armed forces. Young boys living in dire economic circumstances see fighting as a means to a better life. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.

The Road Ahead

It has been a year since the collapse of the central Afghan government, and conditions within the state remain concerning. Without proper protective and preventive services, children and women and girls remain Afghanistan’s most vulnerable. The U.N. has documented hundreds of human rights violations against children along with increased attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian shelters. The Taliban’s presence continues to exacerbate Afghanistan’s worsening socio-economic systems, poverty and food insecurity, thus, increasing the presence of child soldiers among their ranks.

The Taliban’s continued presence in Afghanistan and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic remain the biggest threat to the well-being of Afghan citizens. Thousands of children stay within the Taliban’s ranks serving in dangerous combative roles. With the U.N. and NGOs calling for urgent humanitarian aid, hope remains for a decrease in the number of children becoming child soldiers in Afghanistan.

– Ricardo Silva
Photo: Flickr

Earthquake in AfghanistanU.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, announced that the U.S. would provide $55 million in aid after a fatal 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan on June 21, 2022. The disaster destroyed more than 10,000 houses and killed more than 1,000 people, making it the deadliest earthquake to hit Afghanistan in two decades. The earthquake poses a challenge for the Taliban, who have since asked the international community for aid.

Distribution of Funds

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on June 28, 2022, that it will allocate $55 million in aid for emergency relief resources such as shelter, food, water, clothing and hygiene products in Afghanistan. A portion of the aid will go toward sanitation measures to limit the spread of waterborne diseases. Funds will go directly to partner civil societies and nonprofit organizations operating in the region as the U.S. does not have official diplomatic or humanitarian ties with the ruling Taliban.

Additional Aid Efforts in Afghanistan

The devastating earthquake exacerbates the economic and humanitarian crises that have pummeled Afghanistan since the Taliban first rose to power in August of 2021. Afghani citizens already face food insecurity, with national hunger rising from 14 million in July 2021 to 23 million in March 2022.

With more than half of the population facing food insecurity, international assistance narrowly managed to avoid full-scale famine in the country in the winter of 2022. Poverty rates in the country are estimated to stand at almost 97% as of 2022 due to prolonged drought and instability caused by recent political upheaval and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 25, 2022, the United Nations initiated an emergency appeal for $110 million in aid to help the provinces most affected by the disaster. The U.N. will disseminate the funds in the next three months in order to help 360,000 Afghanistan citizens. This emergency appeal is integral to the U.N.’s Humanitarian Response for Afghanistan, which calls for a total of $4.4 billion in emergency aid.

Barriers to Aid

Unfortunately, the Taliban’s strict control over the country complicates all international humanitarian efforts. In late March 2022, the Taliban’s Prime Minister Mullah Hassan Akhund announced to all foreign aid agencies in Afghanistan that all humanitarian projects must be done in close coordination with Kabul’s authorities. This announcement came a week after the governor of the province of Ghor, Ghulam Naser Khaze, attempted to exert total control over several local NGOs.

Governor Khaze insisted that the NGOs turn over their funds and only adopt projects chosen by the local government. Prime Minister Mullah’s directives and Governor Khaze’s actions in Ghor represent a policy framework known as the “Monitoring and Control Plan of NGOs.” Kabul’s Taliban government formulated this plan in the fall of 2021 to consolidate all NGO activities under the Taliban’s authority.

Sanctions and other measures aim to prevent the Taliban from fully implementing its NGO-control framework. As a result, international financial systems are especially diligent, making it difficult for humanitarian groups to access the funds efficiently. The Taliban continues to actively insert itself between nonprofit organizations and the aid they seek to provide via various formal and informal decrees, further frustrating the fund distribution process.

How to Help

As a result of international sanctions on the Taliban, online fundraising sites cannot be transferred to Afghanistan banks. The best way to help those affected by the earthquake is to donate directly to NGOs in the region. Below is a list of NGOs helping those struggling in Afghanistan.

  • The World Food Programme: The earthquake exacerbated the food crisis that has gripped Afghanistan for months. The World Food Programme mitigates the issue of food insecurity in Afghanistan by delivering food to those in need within just a few hours.
  • The Red Cross and Red Crescent: The Red Cross and Red Crescent have been working in Afghanistan since the U.S. evacuated the country in the summer of 2021. These programs are already organized to deliver food, other critical supplies and mental and health services to those affected by the earthquake.
  • Islamic Relief: Islamic Relief is a Muslim aid network founded in the U.K. in 1984. The organization operates various humanitarian relief programs in more than 45 countries. It already has a fund to help supply food aid, cash and emergency shelter to those facing the impacts of the earthquake.
  • International Medical Corps: The International Medical Corps stood as one of the first organizations to respond to the disaster. It immediately began coordinating with domestic emergency responders and providing trauma care to affected communities.

The international community is rushing to help those affected by the crisis. Still, everyone can help in their own small way. Be sure to remain an active and informed global citizen by vocalizing the importance of foreign aid funds to local government representatives. Through the efforts of nations, NGOs and ordinary citizens, Afghanistan can look to a brighter tomorrow.

– Mollie Lund
Photo: Flickr

elderly-poverty-in-afghanistanAfghanistan has one of the world’s smallest percentages of older people. Only 2.6% of the country’s population is 65 years or older and the average life expectancy stands at just 64.8 years old. Still, the crisis of elderly poverty in Afghanistan continues to deepen as a result of political instability and other lingering crises.

The War

The war in Afghanistan lasted over 20 years and had devastating effects on Afghans. Many Afghans have had to seek refuge, sometimes using methods that were physically and mentally straining. Some fled on commercial or military aircraft, while others had to find their way on foot. Unfortunately, high levels of fragility and low levels of mobility forced many older people to stay put, where they remained at risk of becoming victims of violent acts. Additionally, as a result of these factors, older individuals often lacked access to basic needs, such as water and shelter.

Severe Economic Drought

Due to the country’s long history of political unrest, Afghanistan is currently facing a severe economic drought. According to the International Labour Organization, “following the change in administration in August 2021 [totaled] more than half a million in the third quarter and may reach 900,000 by mid-2022.”

This crisis has worsened the issue of elderly poverty in Afghanistan, as many who rely on younger members of their family to take care of them financially are lacking sufficient resources, such as food and transportation. For those elderly people who do hold jobs of their own, they are overworked and the first to be let go as a result of economic instability.

Efforts to Solve the Problem

While the issue of elderly poverty in Afghanistan is one that often does not get enough attention, there are organizations that are acknowledging the problem, and trying hard to solve it. At the start of 2022, the UNDP announcd plans for a program that would provide temporary basic income to children, those with disabilities and senior citizens via monthly cash transfers.

For Afghan elders who have left everything in Afghanistan and currently reside in the Bay Area, the Afghan Elderly Association (AEA) offers support in a number of ways. Because many elders suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, fleeing Afghanistan may mean that they are currently homeless, with an inability to access services based on language barriers and lack of transportation. The AEA provides services such as disease and cancer screenings, vaccine administration, social outings and cultural recognitions. It educates Afghan elders about remaining vigilant when it comes to personal health and offers appointments for both physical and mental check-ins.

Elderly poverty in Afghanistan does not only affect the elderly. Those who are still in Afghanistan are struggling to earn enough income for themselves and to help the older members of their families and the elders who still have a job are severely overworking.

Elders who have managed to flee Afghanistan are stuck in almost the same conditions as they were at home, unable to find shelter or proper medical and financial resources and turning to others to help them. It is important to remain aware of the problem and do everything possible to help Afghan elders who are unfairly suffering.

Ava Lombardi
Photo: Flickr

Operating in Afghanistan
After years of war and conflict, Afghanistan is facing a major humanitarian crisis. The country’s economy has almost completely collapsed following the takeover of the Taliban in 2021. The Taliban’s involvement in Afghanistan’s economic system has left the nation nearly isolated after the withdrawal of support from major players, such as the United States. Approximately 95% of Afghanistan homes that the World Food Programme (WFP) surveyed have been experiencing food insecurity since September 2021. Households are losing income and numbers are deteriorating quickly. Here are five charities operating in Afghanistan to provide relief.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP)

The U.N. World Food Programme has been one of the major charities operating in Afghanistan, providing food to Afghans for six decades. Due to years of conflict and instability, the majority of the population in Afghanistan is food insecure and malnutrition has doubled among children, according to Save the Children. The organization is responsible for record levels of food provision, serving 16 million Afghans since August 2021.

CARE USA

CARE USA is a nonprofit dedicated to providing humanitarian and economic support to countries experiencing crises globally with a special focus on the wellbeing of women and children. The organization has introduced three programs in Afghanistan. These include women and girls’ empowerment, resiliency and humanitarian relief efforts.  In 2021, CARE reached more than 1.1 million people to provide food, water, health care and education. Many of these programs work to promote sustainable progress in women’s health, inclusive governance and stability for the people of Afghanistan.

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The International Rescue Committee is a global humanitarian charity operating in Afghanistan since the 1980s. The nonprofit provides cash assistance and other basic necessities while supporting health center operations and safe learning spaces for Afghan children. The International Rescue Committee also promotes sustainability in its poverty reduction efforts. It works with local communities to help them create and manage their own projects. In fact, more than 99% of the International Rescue Committee’s staff in the country are Afghan citizens.

The Central Asia Institute (CAI)

The Central Asia Institute is an organization focused on improving access to quality education in central Asian countries. The nonprofit created 15 schools in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, securing access to education for 452 students. The CAI also provides scholarships to primarily women educators to finish their schooling and secure paid teaching jobs. CAI provides emergency aid to displaced women and families.

Doctors Without Borders

Medical assistance is critical during the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders works to establish medical facilities and provide free, safe health care to the people of Afghanistan. The majority of its work consists of maternal and neonatal health care provisions, and it provided approximately 112,000 emergency consultations in 2020 while assisting in almost 40,000 births.

Looking Ahead

Support from the international community is crucial to the survival of the people of Afghanistan. While policy action is necessary for sustainable rebuilding, people on the ground cannot wait for support to meet their basic needs. These global organizations are providing immediate assistance to millions, and their work will continue to prove invaluable.

Hannah Yonas
Photo: Flickr