As foreign troops withdraw and fighting intensifies in Afghanistan, Action Against Hunger warns of growing humanitarian needs and calls on the international community to remember the thousands of Afghan women, men, and children who face hunger and poverty.
For decades, Afghanistan has been plagued by conflict and disasters such as earthquakes and droughts. In 2020, COVID-19 placed a new burden on people and their livelihoods and overwhelmed health services. Now, intensifying fighting puts civilians in further danger, reducing their access to lifesaving assistance and pushing them into exile. Since July 14, more than 270,000 Afghans have fled their homes in search of safety.
"If the fighting continues, the number of internally displaced people in Afghanistan is very likely to increase, even beyond the 500,000 people that were expected this year," said Mike Bonke, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in Afghanistan. “Most of the displaced will find shelter in Afghanistan, but there will surely be an increasing number of Afghans seeking asylum outside of this country’s borders, primarily in Iran and Pakistan, but also in Europe. "
Despite an increasingly tense situation, Action Against Hunger continues to provide health, nutrition, and food security support in different parts of the country. Our mobile clinics provide emergency medical support in remote villages where no other help is available. Last year, our programs reached more than 300,000 people in need.
"The withdrawal of troops does not mean the end of our operations," said Bonke. "We are in contact with all parties to the conflict so that we can continue providing neutral and impartial assistance to the most vulnerable people. We have been working intermittently in Afghanistan since 1996, and we will continue to work alongside communities as much as possible.”
In Afghanistan, 80% of the population survives on basic agriculture. COVID-19, ongoing drought, and conflict all combine to undermine progress made in recent years.
“We have a responsibility to help the Afghan people and not just pull out,” Bonke continued. “Billions of dollars have been wasted on war in this country. Why is there not the will to spend as much to save lives?"
As Action Against Hunger reminded the United Nations Security Council on July 16, parties to the conflict must not hinder humanitarian access nor take actions that could call the neutrality of humanitarian organizations into question.
Today in Afghanistan, half of all children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition and are need of treatment. This year, the country has reached critical levels of food insecurity, affecting 50% of the country's population of 40 million. As the fighting continues, it will be difficult to maintain access to communities in need and provide humanitarian assistance. And, ultimately, the civilian population will pay the highest price for conflict.