On the brink of famine, Afghanistan’s forgotten humanitarian catastrophe puts two decades of gains at risk
April 25, 2022 | Herat, Afghanistan
As the conflict in Ukraine enters its second month, the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan is quickly becoming a forgotten crisis. The gains achieved over the past two decades – including women’s rights and education for all - are now at risk more than ever.
International aid agency World Vision warns that almost nine million people are already on the brink of slipping into famine, while more than 130,000 children could die with the country plunging into an economic collapse as the majority of international aid funding has ceased and billions of Afghan private assets remain frozen. Girls’ and women’ rights continue to be in grave danger as teenage girls, grade six and up, are no longer allowed to pursue an education.
“Afghanistan’s crisis has gotten worse since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Attention has turned away, and the country has rapidly slipped into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Failure to act immediately will have grave consequences. We’re already seeing families selling their children or marrying them off. Many more children will suffer and die if Afghanistan is forgotten. We need to act now, release frozen funds, and agree to fund long-term development. Time is running out,” said Asuntha Charles, World Vision Afghanistan’s National Director.
Already scarred by four decades of war, Afghanistan’s regime change last year has plunged the country into an unprecedented economic crisis that now sees almost the entire population - 95 percent - live below the poverty line. The majority of development aid - making up almost 80 percent of the previous government’s expenditure - has ceased, throwing Afghans into desperation and starvation. The number of street-working children has tripled since August, and families throughout the country are still desperately trying to access their bank savings.
As lifesaving funds are rightly reaching Ukraine, humanitarian funding targets for Afghanistan aren’t being met - and are not reaching the many children living on the verge of starvation, as well as women and girls whose rights are being violated on a daily basis. New refugees are reaching Europe and the US, but thousands of Afghans, who left their homes last August, remain stuck in hotels and on military bases around the world, in limbo as their resettlement processes keep getting postponed.
According to UN data1, Afghanistan’s per capita income has fallen by one-third in the last months of 2021 and the country’s aid-dependent services sector has been hit hard by the crisis, leading to a collapse in urban employment and incomes.
World Vision has worked in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, witnessing the many gains Afghans so urgently deserved: Infrastructure was expanded, literacy rates increased by more than 10 precent2 in the last 10 years and several job opportunities opened up.
Afghanistan’s current crisis - driven by sanctions, finance flow disruptions, economic collapse as well as climate-change induced weather patterns such as droughts, on top of human rights violations throughout the country - is quickly reversing these gains.
In the last six months, World Vision Afghanistan has scaled-up its emergency response, reaching more than a million people across northwestern Afghanistan with lifesaving food and cash distributions, healthcare and clean water. We are proud of our work, but it’s not nearly enough for a population of almost 40 million.
World Vision is calling on donor governments to respond to the unprecedented crisis by releasing Afghanistan’s frozen funds and agreeing to fund long-term development work throughout the country.
“This is not the time to turn our eyes from Afghanistan,” said Charles. “Commitment and funds are needed to not only safeguard Afghanistan’s children, and rebuild the country after four decades of war, but to also provide those children with a prosperous future - a future where they can fulfil their own hopes and dreams.”
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