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four young children in warm clothing sitting with an older woman

Two years on, millions of Afghan civilians need greater international support

Two years since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, the country is suffering one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises yet funding is drying up as international attention fades away.

The decrease in funding means that food and nutrition aid to millions of vulnerable people has been cut in recent months, pushing increasing numbers of people into hunger. Around 40% of Afghans are now experiencing high levels of food insecurity and don’t have sufficient food.

More than halfway through the year the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan has less than a quarter of the funds it needs, forcing rural health clinics and other basic services to shut down.

The funding cuts are also exacerbating the suffering of women and girls, who have faced increasing restrictions over the last two years. Whilst girls are not allowed to attend secondary school, communities have kept informal girls’ classes running – but now many of these are shutting down due to lack of funds. Last month’s closure of beauty parlours has pushed another 60,000 women out of work, yet women’s livelihoods programmes are also struggling for funds.

Across Afghanistan, more than 29 million people – almost three quarters of the entire population – now require humanitarian aid. The economic collapse and international isolation of the Afghan economy has pushed many families who previously had decent jobs into poverty and unemployment, leaving them increasingly dependent on shrinking aid budgets.

Despite the enormous challenges, aid is having a significant positive impact when it is funded. As a result of Islamic Relief’s partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), women entrepreneurs have been able to expand production and reach new markets, bringing more women into paid employment and increasing their businesses’ profitability by an average of 67%. Small-scale farmers who are supported with better irrigation systems and flood defences have increased their productivity by 59% so far.

Umair Hasan, Islamic Relief’s Country Director in Afghanistan, says: “Two years on it feels like the eyes of the world have shifted away from people here. In the villages where we work I’ve met mothers in tears because they’re struggling to feed their children, farmers whose crops have dried up, and girls and boys who are increasingly losing hope for the future.

“People are desperate for a better life but they don’t want handouts – they just want the chance to find work and earn a living. We need the international community to take a long-term approach to Afghanistan that meets humanitarian needs, steps up diplomatic engagement and resumes development assistance to support the economy, boost employment and keep vital public services like schools, clinics and water systems functioning. Afghan communities and local humanitarian staff are working tirelessly for a better future, but they need more support.”

Islamic Relief has worked in Afghanistan since 1992. Last year we supported over 1.2 million people in 15 provinces across the country by responding to emergencies, supporting sustainable livelihoods and services such as health clinics and schools. We currently have over 600 Afghan staff, both men and women.

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