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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.

What's happening

  • The United States has begun relocating a group of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants—people who risked their lives providing critical assistance to the U.S.—to Virginia.

  • The IRC and U.S. partner agencies will be providing services for these individuals, helping to ensure they are given a chance to seek safety and rebuild their lives.

  • While the U.S. is meeting its commitment and moral obligation to protect its Afghan allies, thousands of other Afghans are in need of urgent protection and sustained aid and diplomatic support remain critical.

  • This move must also be part and parcel of a refugee resettlement program that protects the millions of refugees in Afghanistan and around the world in need of resettlement.

Learn more
Country facts
  • Population: 38.9 million
  • People in need of humanitarian aid: 18.4 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 169 of 189
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, while the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-related disaster also exacerbate needs for Afghans.

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, 18 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian aid. 

Afghanistan is embroiled in one of the deadliest conflicts for civilians in the world: There were more than 6,000 civilian casualties in the first three quarters of 2020 alone. Due to ongoing violence and frequent natural disasters, more than 1 million Afghans remain displaced from their homes.

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

The likelihood of extreme weather events in Afghanistan, which is already prone to natural disasters, is rising due to climate change. These disasters coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflict mean that more Afghans at home and abroad are being pushed into poverty and increasing numbers of people are facing food insecurity. The number of people in need for 2021 nearly doubled compared to early 2020.

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. In recent years, the IRC has become one of the leaders in women’s protection and empowerment in the country.

As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict, natural disasters and COVID-19, 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;
  • supports over 100 health facilities, installs hand-washing stations in local communities and provides information and training sessions about COVID-19.

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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