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Afghan girl in school at chalkboard teaching lesson to fellow classmates.
Uncertain future

Afghanistan Crisis Watch

The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to Afghans who have endured four decades of violent conflict, as well as natural disasters and the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is rapidly spreading undetected throughout Afghanistan

  • Confirmed cases rose by 684 percent in May, while the country's extremely low testing capacity means 80 to 90 percent of cases are going untested and undetected. 

  • Despite the spread of COVID-19, the IRC is safely continuing its lifesaving programming in Afghanistan. But more support for frontline responders is needed.

  • Four decades of war has devastated Afghanistan's health system and left more than five million Afghans, especially women and children living in fear of  violence and neglect. The COVID-19 outbreak is making the already terrible situation much worse.

Read our statement
Country facts
  • Population: 30 million
  • People affected by crisis: Over 9 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 171 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Afghanistan: 1988

Afghanistan crisis briefing

Plagued by decades of violent conflict and natural disasters, Afghanistan has created one of the largest refugee populations in the world. The IRC provides humanitarian relief and recovery assistance to those affected by crises.

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What caused the current crisis in Afghanistan?

Since the international community withdrew numerous humanitarian and security operations in 2014, Afghanistan has struggled with a declining economy and dwindling security.

In October 2015, a massive earthquake destroyed thousands of homes, killed hundreds of people and displaced many more.

Violent conflict continues to disrupt the lives of millions who increasingly must fend for themselves. In addition, Afghanistan has had to cope an influx of 110,000 people fleeing fighting in neighboring Pakistan.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan?

Despite many years of humanitarian aid, Afghanistan’s government has struggled to provide clean water, electricity, safe roads and education services for its people. As a result, nine million Afghans remain in need of food, medical care, and other lifesaving support.

Due to ongoing conflict and frequent natural disasters, more than 1 million Afghans remain displaced.

Women and children are frequently subjected to violence, abuse and forced labor. Most lack access to health care, education and legal services.

How does the IRC help in Afghanistan?

Our mission is to help people whose lives are shattered by conflict and disaster to recover and gain control of their futures.

The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, launching relief programs for people displaced by the invasion of the Soviet Union. We continued to provide aid under Taliban rule and expanded our community development projects after the Taliban was ousted. We now work with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country.

As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC:

  • works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects;
  • provides safe learning spaces in rural areas;
  • provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities;
  • helps people find employment.

What still needs to be done?

As Afghanistan emerges from decades of neglect and modest gains, the IRC’s experience and expertise are more valuable than ever. We pledge to put the needs of those most vulnerable—women, children and the elderly—at the forefront of our efforts, and to achieve measurable improvements in education, health, decision-making power and economic well-being.

Download the IRC Afghanistan strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

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