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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

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

The Afghanistan CrisisIn early April 2021, the President of the United States Joe Biden announced that he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In the months following the announcement, increasing issues have plagued the Middle Eastern country. The resurgence of the Taliban and the rapid collapse of the Afghan army are examples. Over a few months, the Taliban aggressively took over parts of Afghanistan; at one point, it circled the capital of Kabul before taking over. In the aftermath of the Afghanistan crisis, the country’s citizens are facing many challenges.

The U.S. spent 20 years and an estimated $83 billion to help build the Afghan army, not including larger costs to fight the war in Afghanistan overall. Both U.S. and Afghan soldiers worked to overthrow the Taliban government and stabilize the country.

Taking Over Afghanistan

When the U.S. completely withdrew its forces, the Taliban invaded and took over U.S. military bases that the Afghan army operated. The Taliban took over at least two-thirds of the country’s provincial capitals in the time it took for the U.S. to take out its troops.

The Taliban took advantage of the United States’ departure, and from the months of May and June, it began its conquest over the country. In those months, Afghanistan saw significant violence compared to the past two decades.

The Taliban started its attacks to take over the country in haste. It targeted the northern part of the country, maximizing its influence and existing strongholds. It had control over 50 of the 370 districts as of June 22.

“The Taliban contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 per cent of Afghan territory outside of urban centers, while also exerting direct control over 57 per cent of district administrative centers,” said the U.N. report.

Consequences that the People are Facing

The Taliban gained more and more ground, seizing major cities all throughout the country. Its actions led to negative effects on the people who live in Afghanistan. Many abandoned their homes in fear of their lives. As the Taliban continued its conquest of the country, the people have been caught in the crossfire, even in attacks in major cities. Videos and photographs have emerged of insurgents going into people’s homes and lynching families, even taking the lives of children.

In the face of this, civilians tried to get out in any way they could. As they sought refuge anywhere they could in the aftermath of the Afghanistan crisis, several countries gave them permission to enter and be safe behind their borders.

“The Taliban have been executing people summarily, they have been lashing women, they have been shutting down schools. they have blown up hospitals and infrastructure,” said former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani in an interview with NPR.

Responses from Other Countries

The government of Canada has decreed that it will take in about 20,000 Afghan refugees into its country in the aftermath of the Afghanistan crisis. This includes women leaders, government workers and others whose lives are in danger. Refugees will receive shelter and aid as they escape from a hostile environment. Even neighboring countries like Pakistan and Turkey have extended their hand in taking in civilians fleeing Afghanistan.

“The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking and Canada will not stand idly by,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in a news conference.

Despite the withdrawal, the United States, under the orders of President Biden, decided to aid Afghan in the face of the Taliban problem. This included intensified airstrikes to help counter the Taliban’s advance and assistance in evacuating diplomats from embassies amid the Taliban takeover.

– Demetrous Nobles
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Afghanistan
Following decades of civil war and negligence, Afghanistan has been experiencing a crisis regarding clean water and sanitation. The lack of an internal plan and a water infrastructure deficit had elicited urgent consequences such as various waterborne diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. Many organizations such as UNICEF took notice and decided to address this issue at its core. By providing funding and necessary resources, there has been evident progress within Afghanistan towards clean water and better sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Sanitation in Afghanistan

  1. Limited Sanitation: According to the State of the World’s Toilets 2007 report, about 92 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 26.6 million population did not have access to proper sanitation. Meanwhile, the number reduced to 61 percent by 2017. With this being said, poor sanitation exposes people, mainly children and elders, to life-threatening diseases. This issue also affects women and girls, putting them at risk for both physical and psychological damage. It affects menstrual, pregnancy and postnatal periods and creates an unsafe environment when in these periods.

  2. Turmoil: One can see the increasing number of cases surrounding poor sanitation as a direct consequence of the damage inflicted by years of war. Beginning in 1992, constant fighting between different mujahidin groups left cities such as Kabul in ruins, further damaging the water infrastructure. Following in 1996, the Taliban took over but did little to nothing to improve the already damaged water infrastructure, including necessary water pumps. Afghanistan, to this day, is still in turmoil, leaving no priority for local governments to improve sanitation and increase access to clean water.

  3. Lack of Reservoirs, Canals and Infrastructure: One major aspect as to why Afghanistan has a difficult time accessing clean water is the evident lack of water infrastructure. Geographically, Afghanistan is a landlocked nation that automatically creates a difficult landscape to receive clean water; therefore, Afghanistan depends on the natural flow of the snow runoff coming from the mountains. There are reservoirs to collect this water, but it is just not enough. Because of the lack of proper water infrastructure, only 30 percent of the water derived from the runoff stays in Afghanistan. Investment towards improving infrastructure is also scarce as the government does not see it as a prominent issue.

  4. Open Defecation: Open defecation is an issue that many countries face on a daily basis; however, it has been an astonishingly prevalent issue in Afganistan. It places many of the individuals and families leaving near waterways in much danger as human waste spreads disease quickly. To combat this issue, UNICEF alongside the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health and Education have partnered to end open defecation by 2025. They are pushing for the Community-Led Total Sanitation approach which advocates for people to build and use their own latrines.

  5. Increase Water Supply: In addition to implementing a plan against open defecation, UNICEF and the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health, and Education have been working to increase water supply to impoverished communities. They aim to steer the public to get clean water through the reliance of rivers, streams, wells, etc. Also, UNICEF aims to increase the government’s capacity to construct local water supply systems. Because of this new agenda, more than 300,000 new people living in Afghanistan received clean water in 2017.

  6. Water Systems: UNICEF is prioritizing gravity-fed piped drinking water systems or systems with solar pumps instead of regular boreholes with handpumps. These methods should provide more water, easy maintenance and close proximity even though they are slightly more expensive. Right now, most of the water comes from the five major rivers in Afghanistan, but this system brings water in an efficient and sustainable way.

  7. Action Within Schools: An important place to advocate for proper sanitation would be in the school environment, and UNICEF has done just that. Working with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF has aimed to create clean school environments and provide proper hygiene information in Afghanistan. This plan includes providing clean water, separate bathrooms and new handwashing stations in schools. This program is growing and is starting to enter more schools.

  8. Sanitation Efforts Aimed at Women: Some have also taken action towards improving sanitation conditions within schools and workplace settings for women and girls. By installing separate bathrooms for males and females, it provides women the opportunity to manage menstruation in a clean environment. Also, the ongoing introduction of curricula surrounding menstrual hygiene promotes rehabilitation and helps girls all around Afghanistan.

  9. Proper Sanitation in Emergencies: Launched in 2005, UNICEF created the WASH emergency center in Afghanistan. This group of various organizations respond during emergencies and help provide clean water, hygiene education and sanitation facilities to the people. For example, they gave hygiene kits to displaced families in the village of Kamalpoor. The kits included soap, detergent, towels, sanitary pads and a plastic bucket to collect water.

  10. Health Centres: Most importantly, UNICEF has aimed to make sure that hospitals and health centers are in proper condition to treat patients. The WASH program implemented focused on improving infection programs and patient safety. It is important to pay attention to the health of patients and to decrease as many cases of disease and death as possible, especially in the case of women and children.

Although Afghanistan still has some way to go, it has made tremendous improvements to its sanitation systems. With continued aid from organizations like UNICEF, it should only continue its progression towards clean water and sanitation for all.

–  Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Afghanistan
Child labor is prevalent in Afghanistan partly due to the quarrelsome war between its government and the Taliban. The country remains one of the poorest in the world where corruption and greed riddle workplaces. Children work long hours and in servile ways to provide goods for their families. It is the only way they are able to survive in an environment marked by poor conditions and minimal social opportunities. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Afghanistan.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Afghanistan

  1. The Motivation for Child Labor: A quarter of kids between the ages of 5 and 14 in the country suffer the burden of working in jobs that are hazardous to their health and well being. The main reason kids work is to help their families survive economically and bring food to the table.
  2. Types of Labor: Children work in many dangerous jobs, such as metal workers, tinsmiths, welders, miners, in the carpet industry and street vendors where the hours are long and the pay is not favorable. One of the jobs that children most fear is bonded labor where they work in brick kilns. Bosses force the children to owe a debt and it becomes insurmountable. The salary children earn is not enough to help them and their families afford a daily meal.
  3. Minimum Employment Age: Afghanistan’s labor law states that the minimum employment age is 18 and prohibits children under 14 from working. Children between the ages of 15 and 17 can work in jobs that express vocational training where the environment is not harmful. The hazardous conditions children must go through at work violates the country’s labor laws.
  4. Limited Enforcement of Labor Laws: According to the Human Rights Watch, the labor law was due for an overhaul to meet international standards, but the government abated its plans to do so. This further interfered with the notion of a child-labor-free country. The safety of children is in jeopardy because the government has not enforced the prohibition against child labor. Children working in prohibited and dangerous jobs go unnoticed as a result of the government’s lack of capacity to inspect workplaces.
  5. Terrorist Groups: Every day, the country’s ongoing war makes matters worse by forcing children to live in constant fear. Various cities in Afghanistan become targets for terrorist groups on a daily basis. Children are at high risk of armed groups abducting them as well as being vulnerable to spontaneous attacks. Armed groups recruit children for use in an armed conflict where many of them face serious injuries, psychological damage and death. In 2018, the country’s government opened a juvenile rehabilitation center for kids formally involved in an armed conflict where it served 34 children.
  6. A Barrier to Education: According to Afghanistan’s Central Statistics, 55 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty. Illiteracy occurs because of the country’s high poverty level where many parents are not able to afford the prices for their children’s education. Around 3.7 million kids between the ages of 7 and 17 do not attend school, and 60 percent of them are girls. Children lose the opportunity to go to school because they need to work long hours in order to make a living and provide for their families’ basic needs. Armed groups constantly target school buildings to use as training grounds, leaving many kids in fear of attending classes.
  7. Girls Education: There is a very low enrollment rate for girls due to the lack of female teachers in Afghanistan. The education system is flawed and only 48 percent of teachers in the country possess minimum academic qualifications. Many schools lack the proper sanitation facilities needed to encourage girls to enroll and only 16 percent of schools in the country are all-girls.
  8. Girls’ Access to Teacher’s Education: To improve conditions, Girls’ Access to Teacher’s Education, a UNICEF supported program, offers a training course to female students in high-school who want to become teachers. UNICEF supported 5,300 community-based schools and accelerated learning centers in 2018, where children learn critical life skills and basic literacy and numeracy skills. As a result, 150,000 students, more than half of them girls, benefited from the organization’s well-doing. In addition, UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Education to provide hand washing stations, safe drinking water and menstrual hygiene curricula to various schools in the country.
  9. Dangers of Migration: Many children flee Afghanistan as a result of the violence and poverty that plague the country. Some kids go to Iran where they continue to work in hazardous environments. They do not attend school. Returnees are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and traffickers.
  10. Displacement Due to Natural Occurences: Displacement of populations is a constant occurrence in the country and a major cause of child labor. It is also a reason why poverty remains persistent. Natural occurrences such as floods force families to leave their communities and start a new life. In 2018, a displacement of 266,000 people in the northern and western parts of Afghanistan came as a result of severe drought, further perpetuating child labor along with the selling of daughters for marriage.

The 10 facts about child labor in Afghanistan above demonstrate how the country is in a state of crisis due to high poverty levels among the population. Child labor remains a main obstacle that people around the world need to be aware of in order to make a difference. Afghanistan’s current war only adds to the challenge. However, organizations like UNICEF are working hard to fix the issue and inspire economic progress.

– Eduardo Hernandez
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is a well-known Pakistani activist campaigning for education rights, particularly for young girls. In light of her mission and her extraordinary achievements, here are 12 facts about Malala Yousafzai.

12 Facts About Malala Yousafzai

  1. Malala was born in the Swat District of Pakistan. This region fell under the rule of the Taliban, which is a fundamentalist terrorist group that imposes highly restrictive rules on women and girls. The Taliban banned girls from attending school or receiving an education of any kind.
  2. Her father was a teacher and ran a chain of schools throughout the local region. He continuously encouraged all of his children to learn despite the societal restrictions. Malala credits her father for inspiring her to pursue further education and humanitarian work.
  3. Malala blogged for BBC for several years. In 2008, BBC Urdu journalists began looking for a young student to share private insight on what life was like under the Taliban. Despite the danger of being caught, Malala’s father recommended her for the assignment and she began blogging in secret, anonymously chronicling her life and her perspective on the rule of the Taliban. She was 11 years old.
  4. Malala started to gain notoriety from standing up to the Taliban publicly. With her father’s blessing, she openly opposed the Taliban rules set in place and began working to regain access to education for both herself and other girls throughout the region.
  5. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 due to her activism and was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize that same year. The Prime Minister of Pakistan later renamed the award the National Malala Peace Prize in her honor.
  6. The Taliban shot Malala in the head when she was 15 years old. Her newfound popularity and voice against the Taliban made Malala a high-profile target and in 2012 she was the victim of a nearly fatal assassination attempt. She was on the way home from school when a masked gunman asked for her by name and openly fired on her and her friends.
  7. She created the Malala Fund, a charity devoted to bringing equal education opportunities to girls around the world. Malala went to the United Kingdom for medical treatment directly after the shooter’s attack where she and her family settled permanently. Afterward, she established the Malala Fund with her father. Within its first year of operation, the Malala Fund raised over $7 million and opened up multiple schools in Malala’s native Pakistan.
  8. She celebrated her sixteenth birthday by giving a speech to the United Nations. Nine months after the assassination attempt, Malala spoke at invitation before world leaders and urged them to change certain policies in regard to education and women’s rights. Since then, Malala has held audience with notable political figures such as Queen Elizabeth and Former U.S. President Barack Obama and given lectures at Harvard University and the Oxford Union.
  9. July 12 has been officially designated Malala Day. After her critically acclaimed speech on her birthday at the United Nations, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, urged all young people to speak out and let the world hear their voices. In an act of support, he declared Malala’s birthday Malala Day in honor of her courage and influential activism.
  10. She was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. After sharing her story, Malala catapulted to international fame and she received an outpouring of support from around the world as her story spread. In honor of her efforts, she became the youngest ever Nobel laureate at the age of 17.
  11. Malala received the United Nation’s highest honor. In 2017 she received the title of U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girl’s education, a two-year appointment given to activists whose work has made an impact. The U.N. selects recipients carefully based on their future goals and past work, and the recipients engage closely with the United Nations’ leaders in an effort to make a change.
  12. Oxford University accepted Malala in 2017 where she began studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. While pursuing her own studies, she currently still works with leaders and organizations around the globe on behalf of the Malala Fund and the United Nations, fighting for equal education for all.

While these 12 facts about Malala Yousafzai cannot encompass all of her achievements and work, they show that Malala’s bravery and perseverance have proven worthwhile in the face of adversity. Her goal to provide education to the world is a necessary step in ending global poverty.

“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” – Malala Yousafzai.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr