Islamic Relief’s Commitment to Afghanistan
Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) has a long and proud history of supporting the people of Afghanistan in their time of need, and now is no different. Almost all Islamic Relief Afghanistan’s staff are Afghan nationals, passionately committed to serving their people and communities. We are determined to stand with our brave staff in standing by Afghanistan,
ensuring that we continue to deliver vital aid and further expand our work in the country.
An entire generation of Afghans has known nothing but conflict. They deserve peace,prosperity and development. We aim to work with Afghan communities and civil society to help build a better future for the country, where every person lives in safety, has access to food, healthcare, water and education, and has the skills and opportunities to earn a sustainable living.
However, right now Afghanistan is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
This has not suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Even before the current turmoil, nearly half of all Afghans were living in poverty and in need of assistance. A triple disaster of many years of conflict, climate change and now the impact of Covid-19, has pushed many families to the brink of survival.
The current situation means Afghanistan’s hunger crisis is worsening by the day and is one of the worst in the world. Almost one in three people go to bed hungry and more than 3.5 million people are just one step away from famine. Half of all children under five years old are expected to suffer from malnutrition this year.
With food supplies running out, prices skyrocketing and unemployment rising, many families are increasingly desperate, especially in rural areas. Our teams on the ground are seeing growing numbers of malnourished and destitute people, begging on the streets or going into debt just to get food for their families. Women and children are particularly affected, with
many reduced to one meal a day and some even going days on end without food.
Many people have left their homes in search of safety, shelter and a better life. Almost 600,000 people have been displaced within Afghanistan so far this year, mostly to seek aid in Kabul and other major cities. Thousands who have fled in recent weeks are sheltering in basic tents, without aid and at risk of outbreaks of diarrhoea and other diseases. Other people have fled the country as refugees, adding to the more than 2.2 million Afghan refugees globally.
As needs increase, the current uncertainty and insecurity mean that much vital humanitarian work is on hold. It is absolutely vital that humanitarian organisations have safe access and sufficient funding to reach people in need.
Investment in aid has brought significant gains in recent years, such as an increase in school enrolment and improved life expectancy. Yet as the humanitarian situation now worsens, funding is once again decreasing. The 2021 UN appeal for Afghanistan is only 37% funded.
For too many years, the international community has seen Afghanistan through a military lens and shaped by strategic interests. Now the Afghan people must come first.
Islamic Relief has worked in Afghanistan since 1999 and is one of the few agencies to operate continuously throughout this difficult period. We have a team of almost 250 staff – nearly half of whom are women – and projects in 35 districts, providing emergency relief and long-term development across the country. Last year alone our work in Afghanistan supported almost half a million (484,777) women, men and children. This work included:
- Disseminating vital public health information to reduce the spread of Covid-19
- Distributing emergency aid to thousands of people made homeless by flash flooding
- Providing food and treating malnourished children
- Increasing girls’ enrolment in school by training teachers and working with community elders
- Providing maternal healthcare, as well as antenatal and postnatal care
- Rehabilitating drug users and helping them to reintegrate into society
- Supporting women’s literacy, and giving vocational training to empower impoverished youth and women to earn an income
- Providing counselling and psychosocial support for women and children affected by gender-based violence.
Now we are determined to scale up further. We have launched an emergency appeal to provide aid to vulnerable people in Kabul, Balkh, Herat and Nangarhar, as soon as we are permitted and it is safe to do so. This urgent aid will initially include food packages, hygiene kits, shelters and other essential supplies for the most vulnerable people, particularly women and children. We also hope to expand our existing long-term development projects across the country as soon as possible.
We are also supporting the growing number of Afghan refugees in some parts of the world.
For example, this month Islamic Relief volunteers have provided food, water and clothing to newly arrived refugees in the US and Europe.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, where the majority of asylum seekers are Afghan and are living in squalid conditions, we partner with HIAS, the Jewish refugee agency, to provide legal support and counselling.
WHAT IS NEEDED?
The lives and wellbeing of Afghan civilians must be prioritised above all else.
- The international community has a duty not to turn its back on the people of Afghanistan. As the humanitarian needs spiral out of control, donors must urgently provide sufficient funding for vital aid. This funding should be fast-tracked and flexible, so that agencies can adapt to the rapidly changing context.
- We urge the new authorities and all other groups to adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure that humanitarian aid can be delivered safely,impartially and without obstruction,to all people in need. Both male and female humanitarian staff should be allowed to carry out their work. Humanitarian agencies must be able to operate in all areas with all communities, based on need and in accordance with humanitarian principles.
- We condemn all violence against civilians and believe that all Afghans – women, men,children and all ethnic groups and religions – have the right to live in safety. We call for all parties to ensure that civilians are protected and not targeted.
- Around 95 per cent of Afghan refugees are hosted by neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan alone hosts more than 1.4 million refugees – ten times more than the combined total taken in by the UK, US, Sweden, Australia, Canada,Norway, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, who between them have taken in fewer than 140,000. Richer countries must take their share of responsibility to welcome refugees and asylum seekers who are leaving Afghanistan, as well as halting repatriations of Afghan nationals. The authorities in Afghanistan should allow those who wish to leave the country to do so in safety.
- We must create a thriving future for all of Afghanistan’s citizens. Islamic Relief believes that we are all created equal under God, and that men and women have God-given rights. The rights of women and girls must be respected. Girls and women should be able to safely access education beyond primary school, participate in public life and decision-making, be free to work and socialise, and have the same protected rights as men and boys.
Publish Date: 6th September 2021