Header Image: Women at an Afghanaid food distribution centre, December 2022. Richard Pohle/The Times

Crisis in Afghanistan

Since the shift in power in August 2021, Afghanistan has been gripped by an unfolding economic crisis and consecutive droughts which has driven unprecedented hunger across the country. The spiralling humanitarian emergency has seen the number of people in need jump by over a third: 28 million men, women and children in Afghanistan now need urgent assistance to survive.

To make things even more challenging, climate change is increasing extreme weather in Afghanistan, meaning harsh winters are the norm. In some of the remote areas where we work, temperatures this winter have dropped as low as -36°C. These colder months are particularly tough for rural families, as their land is covered in a thick layer of ice and snow. A lack of access to local markets, hospitals, or adequate shelter and heating means that lives are lost on a yearly basis.

This multidimensional emergency has pushed many families to breaking point. Women and children are experiencing hunger and poverty most acutely, as an erosion of women's basic freedoms since the Taliban takeover has made it even more difficult for many women to provide for themselves and their families.

Resilient women and Afghanaid in action

Amidst this worsening crisis, Nasrin* (pictured, left), a 35-year-old widow and mother of five, has adapted to the crisis. She moved with her children back to her father's house in rural Badakhshan to free up resources to provide for her family. But, struggling to find work, she was running out of ways to cope. "I alone take care of my five children and there is no one else to support me," she told us. "I was always worried about how to pay off my debt. I didn’t have anything to feed my family and my children did not have winter clothes."

Then Nasrin heard that Afghanaid was distributing emergency cash and immediately identified herself as someone in need of support. "Thank you Afghanaid for helping me and giving me 21,150 Afghani (around £200). I was very happy when I received the cash. I spent the money buying some fuel, food and winter clothes for my children." Nasrin has also been able to pay her children's education fees, as she knows that with schooling, they will be better able to build a brighter future for themselves.

Recent rollbacks on women's full participation in public life threaten to leave many more women like Nasrin unable to access opportunities that enable them to earn an income. This makes life harder for entire households.

Take Amina*, a woman from a nearby district who also received cash support from Afghanaid. She spoke to us about the untold pressure her husband has been facing as sole breadwinner for their family during Afghanistan's biggest economic and food crisis on record. 

If my husband finds work, we can eat but if he doesn't, we don't. My children will not eat. This is our biggest worry.

The family were grateful to be able to use the cash they received from Afghanaid to pay off their debts, and buy three months worth of food and fuel. Amina is hopeful that her husband, Noor Ahmad, will be able to find some local work in the coming months to ensure they can stay resilient.“I don't have my own land," Noor Ahmad told us, "but in the Spring season I will work with others in farming, as a labourer, I hope. I will try."

He also explained why this kind of assistance is particularly useful to families in need, “It is good that Afghanaid gave us cash instead of items because we know what our family needs. We know what items we need to buy." For decades, resourceful, resilient Afghan people have been working hard to keep their families safe and secure during sustained conflict and insecurity, and so have the best understanding of how to handle the unique challenges facing them. This is why, as well as food parcels and heating assistance, we distribute cash: it ensures they have the agency and flexibility to effectively confront their problems.

Amina, Noor Ahmad and their children outside their home

Support for the future

“We can’t just keep going on year after year distributing these huge amounts of food to people,” Charles Davy, Afghanaid's Managing Director said whilst recently speaking with The Times. “Yes, we’ve got to meet the emergency needs as they are, but the only way out of this crisis is that people can grow their own food again.” 

As well as ensuring they can meet their family's urgent needs, we've been helping rural women like Nasrin and Amina to develop skills that help them earn an income and produce nutritious food for their families. From home nurseries to dairy processing, we work with rural women so they have the knowledge needed to put their livestock and land to good use, enabling them to harness their untapped potential to feed their children whilst alleviating pressure on overstretched male family members.

The Times newspaper recently visited one of Afghanaid's food distribution centres in Afghanistan, where women were also able to enrol on these programmes aimed at developing skills for the future:

"Emergency Food served up with skills for the future": Read Catherine Philp's article

Women at an Afghanaid food distribution centre, December 2022. Richard Pohle/The Times

How can you help women in Afghanistan?

Despite the grave operational challenges we face, we're working alongside resourceful, resilient women to ensure that amidst intensifying crisis and the curtailment of their rights, they can still meet their families basic needs, both now and in the future. We are targeting the most marginalised, including families who are displaced, female-headed households and those living with a disability.

By donating to Afghanaid today, you will help Afghan women and their entire families to access the emergency support they need to make it through the coming months:

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*We have changed the names of people included in this story to protect their privacy.

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