Five things you should know about Afghanistan

Last August, the eyes of the world were on Afghanistan. Amidst the dramatic scenes at Kabul airport, people rushed to flee. Today, the global spotlight has shifted elsewhere, but millions of Afghans face a humanitarian crisis.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, continues to focus on supporting the millions of Afghans facing conflict and displacement. But international organizations, including the United Nations, need more funding to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people.

Here are five things you should know about Afghanistan and how we are trying to help you:

1. Afghans are among the world’s largest populations displaced by conflict and human rights abuses.

Afghans have been fleeing their country since 1979. Although many have returned, 2.3 million Afghans have been registered as refugees in the region, mainly in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. An additional 180,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in the region since early 2021.

In addition, 3.5 million Afghans have been displaced in their country as a result of the conflict, including more than 800,000 who have fled since January 2021 – mostly due to the fighting that took place between May and August 2021.

Security has improved in parts of Afghanistan, and many people have been able to return home in the past year. But often, when they return, they find destroyed or destroyed homes, war-ravaged infrastructure and a lack of jobs. Meanwhile, some areas have seen new violence and displacement. An earthquake in the southeast of the country in June, followed by several aftershocks, left many homeless.

What does UNHCR do? In 2021, we helped 1.1 million people, mainly through winter supports such as shelter materials, blankets and cooking fuel. We have also supported neighboring countries to help Afghan refugees. For those who chose to return, we provided cash assistance to repair or rebuild and support projects. So far in 2022 we have provided funds and other assistance to 560,000 people. In addition, 2.5 million Afghans have benefited from infrastructure projects such as schools, community centers, water networks and health centers.

2. Half of the population of Afghanistan suffers from severe hunger.

The Afghan economy collapsed last year. Protracted drought, rising food prices and job losses have pushed some 25 million Afghans into poverty, and more than half the population is now dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. Overseas development aid stopped.

Three-quarters of people’s income is now spent on food. Six million people are teetering on the brink of starvation and one million children suffer from acute malnutrition.

A widespread hunger crisis was averted last winter, but food prices have continued to rise – in part as a result of the war in Ukraine – while household incomes continue to shrink.

What does UNHCR do? Improvements in the security environment have allowed us to expand our presence in areas of the country we have not been able to access for decades, and we now operate from nine offices across the country. So far in 2022, we have supported 300,000 people with cash assistance to meet their basic needs. cash for workRoad-building and canal-cleaning programs provide income for 4,000 workers and support about 28,000 family members.

3. The climate crisis is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe natural disasters affecting societies already devastated by conflict. Even before the Taliban returned, severe drought had damaged crops and lowered groundwater levels. The drought lasted until 2022 and was accompanied by a heat wave so intense that several wildfires broke out in the east of the country. Then unusually heavy summer rains and floods hit many parts of Afghanistan, inundating villages and damaging homes, roads and farmland.

The arid landscape of Helmand province where the effects of severe drought are visible everywhere. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

More than 1.5 million Afghans have been displaced by these disasters, in addition to 3.5 million displaced by the conflict.

What does UNHCR do? In the wake of natural disasters such as the June earthquake, UNHCR is supplying tents, household items, hygiene kits and solar lanterns. We plan to build 2,300 earthquake-resistant homes in the two provinces most affected by the earthquake.

4. Afghan women and girls witnessed the disappearance of their rights.

Many of the actions taken in the past year are killing the hopes and dreams of half the population.

Most girls’ secondary schools remain closed and many women have lost their jobs, while no male guardian is required to accompany them when they leave their homes. As many women can no longer earn a living, families are getting poorer and young girls are forced into marriage.

A girl from a displaced family in Loya Walla settlement, north of Kandahar. © UNHCR / Oxygen Film Studio

What does UNHCR do? We have built a number of Empowerment Centers where women can take computer and programming lessons or receive training and support to run a business. We also run livelihood projects across the country, such as mobile bakeries, sewing training and poultry projects that lift female-headed households out of poverty.

5. Humanitarian organizations trying to alleviate the suffering in Afghanistan lack financial resources.

Coordinated efforts by the United Nations – including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – have delivered humanitarian aid to nearly 23 million people over the past year, including food, shelter, cash and household supplies, and helped prevent last winter’s famine.

Despite these efforts, more than half of the population (about 24.4 million people) still needs assistance. Among them are IDPs, many of whom live in deplorable conditions in makeshift settlements. With sub-zero winter temperatures within a few months, needs will likely continue to grow.

The United Nations has so far received only about 41 percent of the funding needed for the humanitarian response in Afghanistan this year, leaving a critical gap of more than $2.4 billion.

UNHCR also still needs an additional $229.7 million to carry out its work in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.

More humanitarian aid is urgently needed to help Afghans survive the coming winter, but only a functioning economy, security, and restoration of human rights for women and girls, will enable them to further recover in the country.

What does UNHCR do? UNHCR has been in Afghanistan for the past year and continues to provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable Afghans forced to flee, as well as to returnees and their host communities.

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