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Afghanistan Humanitarian Crisis

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Even before the withdrawal of international forces and diplomatic missions and the takeover by the Taliban in August 2021, Afghanistan was one of the world's largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies (CHEs). More than one year after the withdrawal, enormous humanitarian needs remain.

The 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) says Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis “with a very real risk of systemic collapse and human catastrophe.” While in past years humanitarian needs have been driven mainly by conflict, the key drivers of humanitarian need in 2023 include drought, climate change, protection threats (particularly for women and girls) and the economic crisis.

Two-thirds of the country’s population will need humanitarian assistance in 2023. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that a record 28.3 million people will need humanitarian and protection assistance in 2023, up from 24.4 million in 2022 and 18.4 million in 2021. The 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requests $4.6 billion to reach 23.7 million people.

According to Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, “[the country] is at a tipping point. The urgent priority right now is to maintain the humanitarian response to the best extent possible, avert famine, prevent disease outbreaks and avoid excess mortality.”

The World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN warn the acute food insecurity situation in Afghanistan is likely to continue June to November 2023.

There are signs that financial support is not keeping pace with the enormous needs. The World Food Programme (WFP) said that due to funding constraints, at least four million people would receive just half of what they need to get by in March 2023. An estimated 95% of Afghans are not getting enough to eat, with that figure rising to nearly 100% in female-headed households. Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said on March 15 that “the fate of an entire generation of Afghans is at stake.”

In addition to the political, social and economic shocks from conflict and the withdrawal of international forces, disaster risk is becoming an increasing driver of underlying need. A national drought was officially declared in June 2021 and is the worst in more than 30 years.

In eastern Afghanistan, flash floods in late August 2022 killed at least 20 people in Logar province, with thousands of homes and agricultural land damaged. A 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan on June 22, 2022, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving 362,000 in need of humanitarian assistance.

The scale and severity of the issues confronting Afghanistan prompted the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution on March 16, 2023, calling for independent recommendations on how a united international community should address the challenges, including the Taliban’s curtailment of education and work for women and girls, terrorism, and the country’s dire humanitarian and economic situation.

(Photo: Afghan refugees in Iran. Source: EU/ECHO Pierre Prakash via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

2022 was a challenging year for women’s rights in Afghanistan, which provides the starkest picture of what the total erosion of women’s rights looks like, according to Human Rights Watch. In December 2022, the Taliban announced a ban on Afghan women working in non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Taliban went further in April 2023 when it said Afghan women employed with the UN mission could no longer report for work, prompting the organization to review its presence in the country. The Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on April 5, 2023, “The Secretary-General strongly condemns the Taliban’s decision to ban Afghan women from working with the United Nations in Afghanistan. This is a violation of the inalienable fundamental human rights of women.” The UN deputy secretary-general has also said it may propose a meeting with the Taliban to discuss recognition.

Women workers are critical to humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, and the ban is already having consequences. As UN Women survey of humanitarian partners released on Feb. 8, 2023 showed that 93% of organizations are seeing an increased impact on their access to affected women. As NGOs suspend or scale back their operations, they warn that thousands of Afghans will miss out on lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

As the crisis worsens, the UN secretary-general dispatched his deputy, Amina Mohammad, the UN’s most senior woman, with a team to speak to senior Taliban leaders about reversing restrictions. Until the ban is reversed, some NGOs are forced to decide whether to continue operations based on assurances from the Taliban or government ministries.

As reported by The New Humanitarian, an internal letter from UN staff in Afghanistan says the UN response to the Taliban’s ban on Afghan women working for the group is fragmented and “incoherent”, warning that it risks long-term harm to aid operations.

According to Human Rights Watch, since capturing Kabul in August 2021, “Taliban authorities have imposed severe restrictions on women’s and girls’ rights, suppressed the media, and arbitrarily detained, tortured, and summarily executed critics and perceived opponents, among other abuses.”

In November 2022, the Taliban ordered judges in the country to fully impose their interpretation of Sharia Law, which experts fear will lead to a further deterioration of human rights in Afghanistan. Following a visit to the country in November 2022, Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, concluded that “the country continues to experience a serious crisis and urgent action is needed from all parties to avert a further deterioration of the situation.”

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Key facts
  • In 2023, 28.3 million people will need life-saving assistance. Humanitarian partners have prioritized 23.7 million people to receive multi-sectoral assistance in 2023. To meet these needs, $4.62 billion is required.
  • In its March 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Update, UNOCHA warned that “With nearly 20 million people facing severe hunger – six million of them one step away from famine – Afghanistan faces a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe unless urgent funding is secured.”
  • Famine is a highly technical classification that meets specific criteria. Famine is a complex problem, but much can be done before hunger becomes a catastrophic crisis, including early action to prevent food insecurity and famine.
  • Each year, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) releases a list of the 20 humanitarian crises expected to deteriorate the most over the next year. IRC’s 2023 Watchlist puts Afghanistan in the third spot due to widespread poverty, harsh winter conditions, disaster impacts and violence and exploitation against women and girls.
  • In 2022, humanitarian partners reached 25 million people with at least one form of assistance. Yet, millions who received one form of assistance will continue to require multiple rounds of support in 2023 to survive.
  • The provision of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan continues to be challenged by the complex access and operational environment. Although improved access has allowed aid to reach previously hard to reach areas, pockets of conflict pose risks of safety concerns.
  • At the end of the first quarter of 2023, donors had funded just 5.4% of the $4.6 billion requested in Afghanistan’s 2023 HRP. On March 20, 2023, WFP said they can only provide food assistance to four million out of the 13 million people planned to receive assistance in April 2023.
An economic crisis

Decades of conflict and severe drought contributed to Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, but economic shocks are a primary driver of the deteriorating situation.

According to the 2023 Afghanistan HNO, “Afghanistan’s economic crisis is widespread, with more than half of households experiencing an economic shock in the last six months.”

A study by the United Nations Development Programme in April 2023 found that “Afghanistan’s economic output collapsed by 20.7 percent following the Taliban takeover in 2021.” The study also says, “The edicts restricting the rights of women and girls, including a directive banning Afghan women from working for the UN, directly affect economic productivity and may also impact the level of aid inflows.”

When the Taliban assumed power in August 2021, the country faced daunting economic and development challenges, and recent political developments have pushed the country into an economic crisis.

According to the World Bank, “Rapid reduction in international grant support, loss of access to offshore assets, and disruption to financial linkages are expected to lead to a major contraction of the economy, increasing poverty, and macroeconomic instability.”

Before August 2021, Afghanistan’s economy was 75% dependent on foreign assistance. After the Taliban assumed power, most international assistance was cut off, which caused a drop in purchasing power. The U.S. renewed the blocking of Afghanistan’s central bank’s foreign assets amounting to over $7 billion (Executive Order no. 14064). In April 2022, United Nations (UN) experts called on the U.S. government to unblock foreign assets to ease the humanitarian impact.

In August 2022, 32 Afghan and international NGOs called for a clear roadmap to restore the Afghan central bank’s essential functions and release Afghanistan’s assets frozen abroad. However, Western countries have not been ready to lift sanctions until the Taliban sets up a more diverse government, permits girls to return to secondary school and allows independent control of the Afghan central bank.

A significant development occurred in September 2022 when the U.S. said it will transfer $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets into a new Swiss-based trust fund to be used “for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan.” The new trust fund was created after months of talks between the U.S., Switzerland, other parties and the Taliban. No funds will go to the Afghan central bank. The unfreezing of Afghan assets has been called for by humanitarians.

However, the mandate of the Afghan Fund does not include support for humanitarian assistance. In their January 2023 snapshot report of the Afghan economy, ACAPS said the key functions of the fund include price and exchange rate stability, payment of World Bank arrears, representing the Afghan Central Bank (DAB) in court, payment for some critical imports, assessment of the capacity of the DAB, and support to the third-party monitoring of DAB’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing systems.

Increasing food prices have made hunger a danger for many Afghans who had been leading relatively comfortable lives a year ago. As of the first week of April 2023, WFP reported the prices of rice, pulses and sugar are substantially high compared to the 2-year average.

While costs continue to increase nationwide, monthly household income across all population groups declined from 2021 to 2022. According to the 2023 Afghanistan HNO, “the continued decline in income is deepening poverty across the country, with the average income per person per day totalling less than half the poverty line.”

More than one million people were estimated to be without work in August 2022. An FAO household survey released in May 2022 found that 26% of respondents lost employment. Severe cash shortages continue to limit economic activity within banks and local markets. Another alarming statistic is that people’s debts have increased both in terms of the number of people taking on debt (82% of all households) and the amount of debt (about 11% higher than the previous year).

In August 2022, Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, then the UN Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan, who is also the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, said, “Without functional markets, without (an) operating banking sector, without investments in basic-level jobs, we will not be able to reverse the trends which we are observing now in Afghanistan.”

In their September 2022 report about the risk in the country, ACAPS said, “A drastic decrease in purchasing power severely affects the ability of the poor, specifically the urban poor, to address basic needs and access goods and services.” The anticipated impact of a decrease in purchasing power would be further increased debt and the use of extreme coping mechanisms.

Source: ACAPS
A displacement crisis

According to UNOCHA, from April 10, 2022 to Sept. 13, 2022, 32,424 individuals fled their homes due to conflict. “Inadequate shelter, food insecurity, insufficient access to sanitation and health facilities, as well as a lack of protection, often result in precarious living conditions that jeopardises the well-being and dignity of affected families.”

From Jan. 2, 2022 to Jan. 5, 2023, 246,780 people were affected by disasters throughout Afghanistan. A total of 33 provinces out of 34 experienced some disaster during the period. Flooding and landslides in August 2022 displaced at least 8,000 people.

In addition to conflict, food security is another contributing factor to displacement. In interviews with the Norwegian Refugee Council, internally displaced persons (IDPs) explained that they would have to leave the country if they could not feed their families. Internal displacement remains on the rise.

Source: UNHCR

As of Dec. 31, 2022, 2,074,723 Afghan refugees were registered in the neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Of the refugees registered in neighboring countries, more than 1.3 million refugees are in Pakistan. Between Feb. 12 and Feb. 25, 2023, 2,772 undocumented Afghan nationals spontaneously returned to Afghanistan, including 1,044 through the Torkham border point and 1,728 through the Chaman border point.

In August 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a non-return advisory for Afghanistan, “calling for a halt on forced returns of Afghan nationals, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected.” Yet, UNHCR says between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2022, 3,677 registered Afghan refugees returned to Afghanistan. The International Organization for Migration also observed nearly 60,000 undocumented Afghan returnees at the Torkham and Chaman border points in 2022.

More than 78,000 Afghans were resettled in the U.S. as of March 2022, making this the largest U.S. resettlement effort in decades.

As of Feb. 12, 2023, the U.S. had approved just 4,775 applications from Afghan evacuees who requested asylum or special visa status for those who aided American forces. CBS News reported, “Those who lack permanent legal status could lose their authorization to work and live in the U.S. legally starting in July without congressional intervention.”

However, thousands of Afghan families remain separated, and the U.S. does not have a clear path to reunite them. The United Kingdom has launched three resettlement scheme pathways for Afghans. Afghan refugees in Brazil are in limbo and some consider a dangerous journey to the U.S.

Afghans who have been resettled in the U.S. face a long road ahead. Data released by the International Rescue Committee in August 2022 shows that in their first year of work, newly arrived Afghans will contribute nearly $200 million in taxes and $1.4 billion to the American economy. For those who qualify for a visa to travel from Afghanistan to the U.S., such as the Special Immigrant Visa, the journey can be frustrating due to U.S. government bureaucracy and other barriers.

A hunger and malnutrition crisis

The WFP says nearly 20 million people are projected to be acutely food insecure between November 2022 and March 2023, including more than 6 million people in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). In September 2022, the WFP said the country faces its most serious risk of famine in 20 years.

According to UNOCHA’s February 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Update, “Malnutrition rates remain extremely high, with some 875,000 children expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2023, and 2.3 million children and 840,000 women from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).”

The situation continues to worsen. In their March 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Update, UNOCHA reported, “The number of people facing potential famine is presently among the highest in the world. Levels of moderate acute malnutrition are also the highest ever recorded in the country, with an estimated four million children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year.”

Household incomes have continued to shrink. For the fifth month in a row, as of October 2022, more than half of households saw their incomes decrease. Within the same timeframe, households have been spending over 90% of their income on food. Half of the population is turning to coping mechanisms to survive. The most common strategies are buying less expensive/preferred food (89%) and borrowing to buy food (73%). Female-headed households and households with persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a global shortage in cooking oil, and rising fuel prices mean transportation costs are increasing. These impacts are felt in Afghanistan, where the price of wheat went up by an additional 20% following the invasion.

Between June and November 2022, 25 million people were estimated to be in either Phase 3 (Crisis) or Phase 4 (Emergency) based on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. Phase 5 is described as catastrophe/famine.

One often overlooked concern is the health of livestock, which are an important source of food and income for many families. With the drop in temperatures, below-average animal fodder, overstretched veterinarians and increased transportation costs, there is a risk of severe loss of livestock.

A health care crisis

The government’s Sehatmandi program provides essential primary care services and is the backbone of Afghanistan’s health system. In January 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the country’s health system was nearing collapse. Since the Taliban gained power in August 2021, significant funding for the program has been withdrawn as donors found it impossible to provide funding through the new regime. Signs of system collapse are emerging, including the severe life-saving medicines shortage in May 2022.

According to the 2023 Afghanistan HNO, “Multiple parallel shocks are driving Afghanistan’s health needs and are severely impacting the increasingly strained health systems and services. Chief among these are acute disease outbreaks, including multiple outbreaks of measles, AWD, dengue fever, pertussis, Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) and malaria, and COVID-19 cases continue to be reported.”

“Infectious diseases like AWD and cholera are the consequence and catalyst of poor humanitarian conditions, including poor sanitation, water quality and quantity, malnutrition, reduced school attendance, poor health and reduced income.”

Source: WHO

A challenge is the ongoing attacks on healthcare in Afghanistan. Between January and September 2022, seven incidents in six provinces were reported that affected two healthcare facilities and 17 providers.

A significant increase in measles cases compounds the nutrition situation in the country. In 2022, an upward tick in measles cases was observed weekly until the 15th week and has decreased each week since. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 10, 2022, there were 5,749 lab-confirmed measles cases in the country.

Source: WHO

According to International Medical Corps in November 2022, risks in winter include an increased probability of road accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks. During winter, the spread of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, measles, scabies, etc., is more likely due to overcrowding and less ventilation.

Afghanistan is one of several countries globally experiencing a major ongoing cholera outbreak. In 2022, and as of Sept. 12, a total of 150,278 cases, including 55 deaths, had been reported.

A natural hazards crisis

On average, 200,000 Afghans are affected by disasters each year. From Jan. 13, 2023 to May 5, 2023, 7,764 people were affected by disasters throughout Afghanistan. During this period, 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces experienced a disaster. Floods are the most commonly recorded natural hazards. The eastern region has the highest number of affected people, with 4,861.

The La Niña phenomenon is forecast to continue at least until spring 2023. With most of Afghanistan currently under drier than usual conditions, further shortage of rainfall may put additional stress on water resources.

Unfortunately, this scenario did occur when a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit Badakhshan Province in northeastern Afghanistan on March 21, 2023. The earthquake combined with underlying vulnerabilities damaged an estimated 200 houses and affected more than 7,000 people. Heavy rains and flash flooding also affected more than 4,500 people in several provinces in spring 2023. Limited funding constrained humanitarians’ ability to scale up assistance.

Significant disasters in 2022 included the following:

  • In eastern Afghanistan, flash floods in late August killed at least 20 people in Logar province, with thousands of homes and agricultural land damaged. An elder in the Khushi district of Afghanistan’s Logar province said the flooding was unprecedented.
  • On Aug. 14, heavy rains resulted in flash flooding in northern Parwan province, killing at least 31 people. An official said more than 100 homes were partially or completely destroyed.
  • A 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan on June 22, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving 362,000 in need of humanitarian assistance. The country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis compounds the earthquake’s impact. A total of $110 million is required to provide humanitarian assistance between July and September 2022. However, through September, less than half of the funding needed had been announced. CDP hosted a webinar on July 7 to explore the impact of the earthquake and how funders can support immediate and ongoing needs.
  • Unseasonal and severe rainfall across the northwest and northern provinces on May 3 led to flash flooding affecting at least 485 families. The flooding killed at least 13 people and damaged more than 1,200 homes. Between Aug. 11-15, flash floods killed at least 41 people in several provinces across the eastern, southern, south-eastern and central regions. The most recent round of flooding destroyed crops, agricultural land and local infrastructure.

In early November 2022, a task team was formed of representatives from UN Agencies, NGOs and Assessment and Analysis team members. The task team provided technical support that resulted in a UNOCHA Earthquake Lessons Learnt Review, which included key findings and recommendations from the June 2022 earthquake.

The review found that the lack of female staff early in the response meant the needs of women and girls were missed in early assessments, demonstrating the critical role women play. While humanitarian partners provided assistance to more than 100,000 people, the specific needs of women and girls could be strengthened, a lesson for future disasters as well as the ongoing crisis.

Droughts are among the most complex and severe climate-related hazards experienced. The country is experiencing ongoing droughts for the second successive year. Near-record low precipitation was observed in several parts of the country during the latest wet season, and wheat production losses in 2022 were significant.

Immediate needs during a complex humanitarian emergency include emergency shelter, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, evacuation support, family reconnection, health care, protection of at-risk populations and case management. These needs will continue through the course of the CHE and into the recovery period.

Food and economic security

The sector with the largest number of people in need and financial requirements in the 2023 HRP is the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC). The HRP has identified 21.2 million people in need and $2.6 billion in financial requirements for this sector alone.

Food consumption and household income are interconnected. As incomes diminish or disappear, a rising proportion of household income is being spent on food, leading to negative coping strategies and leaving little to spare for other essential needs. Emergency food assistance, school feeding and livelihood assistance are ongoing needs.

One often overlooked concern is the health of livestock, which are an important source of food and income for many families. There is a risk of severe loss of livestock.

Public health

With the partial collapse of Afghanistan’s health system, there is a need for scaling up health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities.

According to the 2023 Afghanistan HNO, “Availability of reproductive, maternal, new-born and child health services are critical in humanitarian settings that typically see rises in maternal deaths, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, unsafe abortion, and gender-based violence.”

Information and access to quality healthcare, including reproductive services, is needed, particularly for marginalized groups such as women, pregnant women, people with disabilities and older adults. Responding to multiple outbreaks is a critical need, including COVID-19, measles, acute watery diarrhea, dengue fever and malaria.

Mental health
Displaced people have undergone a significant change in their way of life, perhaps including loss of livelihood, extreme poverty and damaged social support structure. Because of the ongoing conflict, they also may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the 2023 Afghanistan HNO, “The legacy of decades of war remains, with high levels of disability and trauma. Half of all Afghans suffer from psychological distress and one in five people is functionally impaired due to mental illness.”
The HNO also states, “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) needs are critical: Prolonged exposure to conflict is believed to increase the prevalence of mental health conditions above the WHO global prevalence of 15 percent, yet stigma and shortages of trained health-care workers are treatment barriers.”

According to the 2023 Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP), which focuses on five neighboring countries, “As well as responding to the basic needs of the most vulnerable populations, investments in infrastructure including health, education, and water and energy networks require major attention.”

A large-scale return of Afghans is unlikely in 2023, so the RRP says “support continues to be vital to share responsibility and the cost of hosting refugees with countries who have welcomed Afghans on their territories for decades and whose national systems are under huge strain, particularly in the areas of health and education.”

For Afghan refugees living in the U.S., permanent housing, access to healthcare and livelihood support are ongoing needs.

The 2023 Afghanistan HNO says, “The public education system remains critically underfunded and at risk of collapse, necessitating emergency education measures as a lifesaving intervention. As the public education system deteriorates, the burden on the humanitarian response will inevitably increase.”

Children’s access to safe and quality education is an ongoing need. On Sept. 30, 2022, a horrific attack on a learning center in Kabul that students from Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras attend resulted in the deaths of 53 students, mostly young women. Within days of the attack, protests were organized to denounce the attacks and demand the reopening of girls’ high schools in the country.

The week of March 21, 2022, girls aged 11 and older showed up to their schools in anticipation of attending class for the first time since the Taliban seized power. However, they were told secondary schools would remain shut indefinitely. This decision by the Taliban has been met with condemnation internationally.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the Taliban to open schools for all students in the country. Schools return on March 21, 2023, and Save the Children is calling for the ban to be lifted immediately and for girls to have full access to education. “More than 3 million girls who were previously enrolled in secondary school have been denied their right to education since the Taliban takeover.”

According to ACAPS, “Even if schools eventually resume, shortages of funds teachers, and schools; fear, traditional gender norms, and geographical remoteness were already limiting girls’ access to education.”

The Gender Cluster said as of April 16, 2022, eight provinces continued providing secondary education for girls, however, they reported that the picture is mixed with girls only returning in a few districts. The ban is directly affecting 1.1 million secondary school girls. According to an analysis by UNICEF, keeping girls out of secondary school costs Afghanistan 2.5% of its annual Gross Domestic Product.

In July 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Council held an urgent debate on the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that since the Taliban took power, women and girls in Afghanistan were experiencing the most significant and rapid roll-back in the enjoyment of their rights across the board in decades. Millions of Afghan women have been confined to their homes and Afghan girls fear for their future. Despite the challenges and restrictions imposed by the Taliban, Afghans continue to address the rising educational needs of children in the country, particularly girls.

Gender equity and security

Women and children often face increased risks in CHEs like gender-based exclusion, marginalization and exploitation. According to UN Women, women and girls are seeing a rapid reversal of their rights since the Taliban’s takeover. Afghan women are more likely than men to seek asylum with children, and non-partnered women face additional burdens in finding shelter, safety and resources.

In December 2022, the Taliban announced a ban on Afghan women working in NGOs. The Taliban went further in April 2023 when it said Afghan women employed with the UN mission could no longer report for work, prompting the organization to review its presence in the country. ACAPS published a report in April 2023 describing the social impact of the Taliban’s restrictive policies including restrictions on women and girls.

On March 8, 2023, UN experts said, “the situation of women and girls’ rights in Afghanistan has reverted to that of the pre-2002 era when the Taliban last controlled the country, effectively erasing progress on women’s rights in the intervening 20 years.” In addition to calling on the de facto authorities “to end the harmful annihilation of women rights and lift restrictions imposed on women” the experts urged the international community to increase support to Afghan women.

In a survey conducted by UN Women and UNHCR and published in June 2022, 62% of respondents indicated not knowing how to report instances of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Protection and access to services for women and children remain ongoing needs.

A UNOCHA report released on Sept. 14, 2022, shows how female participation in the humanitarian response has changed for national female staff since the takeover by the Taliban. The report says female humanitarian workers’ “ability to engage safely, meaningfully and comprehensively in humanitarian action has become even more challenging over the past 12 months.”

In June 2022, 25 civil society organizations called for an urgent debate at the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council regarding the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan. The Interagency Rapid Gender Analysis for Afghanistan humanitarian response was released in November 2022 and aims to better understand the gendered impact of the current humanitarian crisis. Specific groups at-risk include widows and women-headed households, IDPs, women and girls in rural areas, people living with disabilities. The report includes good practices for navigating challenges to gender-responsive humanitarian response in the country.

Afghan women walking among tents

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has a Global Recovery Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises. CDP also has a Disaster Recovery Fund that provides the chance for donors to meet the needs of those affected by this displacement crisis in the U.S. and territories.

Support recovery now

Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a donation to the CDP Global Recovery Fund, please contact development.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

(Photo: Women walk among makeshift tents in a camp for internally displaced people in Mazar-e Sharif city in northern Afghanistan. Source: UNHCR/Edris Lutfi)

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help with disaster recovery, please email Regine A. Webster.

Philanthropic and government support

CDP awarded a $100,000 grant to Concern Worldwide in 2022 through the COVID-19 Recovery Fund to support Afghan communities in strengthening resiliency to withstand the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the pandemic’s economic impacts by increasing access to water back to pre-pandemic levels. At the project’s completion, water canals were desilted, and new water ponds constructed, which increased water storage options for the communities. The project utilized a cash-for-work strategy, allowing community members to participate in the project and earn income that was critical given high levels of food insecurity in the area.

CDP awarded a $150,000 grant to KIND in 2021 through the Disaster Recovery Fund to expand its capacity to provide legal representation and reunifications for children and their families from Afghanistan and children arriving at the southern border of the U.S.

CDP awarded a $250,000 grant to Save the Children in 2022 through the Global Recovery Fund to provide Afghan and host community children in Pakistan with early childhood social-emotional learning skills to mitigate the impact of trauma caused by forced migration. This pilot project will use Sesame Workshop content and resources and work with TKF, a local Afghan partner.

CDP awarded a $215,000 grant to Miyamoto in 2022 to repair 15 family compounds damaged or destroyed by the June 2022 earthquake in Afghanistan prior to the onset of winter, leading to shelters that are more resilient and better winterized.

CDP awarded a $316,500 grant to Teach for All, in collaboration with Teach for Afghanistan Organization, from the COVID-19 Response Fund to recruit 50 new female teachers for a new cohort over a two year period to provide Afghan children with quality education, teach children important social and emotional learning skills, increase awareness on protection measures for COVID-19 within schools and communities and avoid learning loss due to COVID-related school closures by providing alternate learning opportunities to 15,000 Afghan children.

The Community Sponsorship Hub, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors, Inc., is a partner in a joint initiative called The Sponsor Circle Program, which is a community-led resettlement initiative that allows Americans to help welcome an Afghan newcomer to their communities.

On the day the appeal for $4.4 billion to support the 2022 Afghanistan HRP was announced, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said, “This is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance and it is three times the amount needed, and actually fundraised in 2021.” As of Jan. 18, donors had funded 59% of the $4.4 billion requested in the 2022 HRP is currently funded.

The 2023 Afghanistan HRP requests $4.6 billion to reach 23.7 million people. A massive two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population will need humanitarian assistance in 2023 “as the country enters its third consecutive year of drought-like conditions and the second year of crippling economic decline” while still dealing with the after-effects of decades of conflict and recurrent disasters. As of May 31, donors had funded just 8.9% of the $4.6 billion requested in the 2023 HRP.

On Sept. 23, 2022, the U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State, announced nearly $327 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. Since August 2021, the U.S. has provided more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance for the country.

More ways to help

As with most disasters and emergencies, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

Donors can help in the following ways:

  • Provide unrestricted core funding for vetted humanitarian NGO partners that support the 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). This is an efficient way to ensure the best use of resources in a coordinated manner. Funding the NGOs that have contributed to the HRP ensures that resources are directed to support the plan and use humanitarian partners’ best knowledge.
  • Prioritize investments in local organizations: Local humanitarian leaders and organizations play a vital role in providing immediate relief and setting the course for long-term equitable recovery in communities after a disaster or crisis. However, these leaders and organizations are mostly under-resourced and underfunded. Grant to locally-led entities as much as possible. When granting to trusted international partners with deep roots in targeted countries, more consideration should be given to those that empower local and national stakeholders.
  • Support the refugee resettlement agencies that work in coordination with the federal government to determine where refugees are settled here, depending on U.S. ties, and agency and community capacity. A quick expansion of capacity to do the work requires flexible and rapid funding.
  • At a local domestic level, support housing, employment, medical assistance, assistance with school enrollment and other programs. Again, flexible funding allows for directing funding toward the most critical needs.

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CHEs involve an acute emergency layered over ongoing instability. Multiple scenarios can cause CHEs, like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, the man-made political crisis in Venezuela, or the public health crisis in Congo.



The Latin root of “resilience” means to bounce back, but every field has its own definition and most individuals within each discipline will define it differently. Learn more.



It is commonly acknowledged that all disasters start and end locally. Though there is no single definition, localization is a process of recognizing, respecting and strengthening the leadership by local authorities and the capacity of local civil society in humanitarian action to better address the needs of affected populations and to prepare for future humanitarian responses.