Header image: Men collecting sacks of wheat flour at an Afghanaid food distribution funded by WFP. Richard Pohle/The Times

Over the past few years, Afghanistan has been gripped by a dire humanitarian crisis, precipitated by decades of conflict, the growing impacts of climate change and a recent economic downturn. Currently, nearly 29 million Afghans find themselves in urgent need of life-saving assistance, with nine in ten households unable to eat enough food to sustain their daily needs.

Despite this, the World Food Programme (WFP) this week announced that, due to a “crippling funding crisis”, they have had to make further cuts to their food assistance across Afghanistan, resulting in a projected two million Afghan people now being unable to access the emergency support they so desperately need. 

As a result of the dwindling international funding for this humanitarian crisis, in 2023 the WFP has now been unable to deliver life-saving aid to a total of ten million people who were identified as in need of urgent food assistance at the beginning of the year. The UN's humanitarian response plan for 2023, based on rigorous analysis which quantifies the need for lifesaving assistance in the country, set a funding goal of $3.23 billion, yet three quarters of the way through the year, only 26% of this amount has been raised.

Growing restrictions on women and girls also means that these funding gaps will affect the female population the hardest. With limitations on their movement, their ability to seek education and enter employment, the majority of Afghan women now have limited means to earn an income or feed their families without humanitarian or development assistance. Without sustained support from international funders, it is women and girls who will undoubtedly suffer the impact, penalising them twice over.

Since the humanitarian crisis further deteriorated in August 2021, Afghanaid has delivered emergency assistance to well over two million people, ensuring families can feed themselves, find safe shelter and stay healthy. As well as helping families to meet their urgent needs - a crucial first step in helping them rebuild their lives - humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient to resolve the complex and protracted crises being faced by Afghan communities. This is why we've continued to deliver longer-term development programmes focused on strengthening livelihoods, improving access to basic services, and helping communities adapt to the changing climate. Our ability to provide assistance to those who need it most has been made possible by the resources contributed by governments and supporters worldwide.

Nevertheless, as the two year anniversary of the Taliban takeover passes and media attention on the humanitarian crisis continues to wane, it is clear that vulnerable Afghan communities now risk bearing the brunt of international isolation and diplomatic sanctions. Organisations like Afghanaid are therefore ever-more vital for ensuring the international community can still engage with and support ordinary Afghans. As we move towards the looming, brutal winter months, more aid funding must be urgently mobilised by the international community to ensure organisations do not have to take further drastic measures. More must be done to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and ensure ordinary Afghans are able to receive the support they deserve.

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