One year on since the shift in power in Afghanistan, economic collapse has sent the population spiraling towards a hunger crisis rooted in policies that have brutally punished everyday citizens. IRC warns that if Afghanistan continues on this trajectory, the current crisis could kill far more Afghans than the past 20 years of war.

For two decades, Afghanistan has heavily relied on foreign aid, much of which has been suspended or frozen over the last year - significantly impacting the welfare of Afghans across the country. The reduction in development aid, combined with the freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves and the collapse of the banking sector have provided a perfect storm for economic collapse. Meanwhile, restrictions on women’s access to work have contributed to Afghanistan’s failing economy, producing an economic loss of up to $1bn - about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP. 

The impact for Afghans has been devastating - skyrocketing levels of unemployment, rising hunger, and the disintegration of civil society. Worryingly, a recent IRC report found that 77% of women-led civil society organisations have lost their funding over the last twelve months with most having closed down activities. These local organisations are critical to delivering services to the most vulnerable communities, especially women and children living in rural areas.  

Vicki Aken, IRC Afghanistan Director, said:

“One year since the shift in power, Afghan civilians are bearing the brunt of a decimated economy and spiraling humanitarian crisis. Since 15th August of last year, the critical non-emergency donor funding that sustained basic services in Afghanistan has been largely suspended. Twelve months of sweeping economic disaster has seen the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance jump by one third since the start of 2021. Today a staggering 55% of Afghanistan’s population rely on humanitarian aid.

“As global leaders sought to economically isolate the Taliban, their policy approaches have crippled the economy, destroyed the banking sector and plunged the country into a humanitarian catastrophe that has left more than 24 million without enough food to eat each day. And when a family goes hungry in Afghanistan, women are the last to eat.

“The humanitarian response in Afghanistan is drastically under-funded, standing at 44% of the required amount to reach those in need. Humanitarian donor pledges must be translated to funding for the frontline response - but humanitarian aid cannot be a replacement for a functioning economy and state. Afghan families continue to pay the price for political impasse, and leaders must do more to urgently scale up the humanitarian response while also ensuring Afghans can access livelihoods and basic services, such as healthcare. Afghans need more than a humanitarian lifeline, they need a functioning economy. We urge international institutions to provide technical support to the banking sector to help it get back on its feet. 

“The Afghan people cannot be made to pay for the actions of the de facto authorities. Without meaningful support, Afghanistan will continue on this trajectory - and the current crisis will kill far more Afghans than the past 20 years of war.”

Harlem Desir, IRC Senior Vice President, Europe, said: 

“Since the onset of the current crisis in Afghanistan, the EU has played an important role in addressing humanitarian needs. However, 12 months after the shift in power, it’s clear that much more is needed to prevent the country sliding towards greater economic collapse and human suffering. 

WIth more than half of the Afghan population facing malnutrition and reliant on aid, it’s critical that donors - including the EU - increase humanitarian funding and contribute to efforts to fill the $2bn shortfall at the heart of the crisis response. The EU must urgently scale up its ‘Humanitarian Plus’ activities in the health, livelihoods and education sectors to support and protect the provision of basic services in Afghanistan. In addition, the EU should work with other donors of the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) to continue to disperse funds, and to establish an agreement to replenish this vital mechanism.

More than 6 million Afghans have been forced to flee their homes, including 2.7 million refugees displaced across borders. While the vast majority have remained in the region, those who make it to Europe must be welcomed with respect and dignity. The EU’s response to people fleeing Ukraine shows that this is possible. At the same time, the EU must urgently provide a lifeline to the people of Afghanistan by expanding safe, regular pathways to protection in Europe, as well as long-term refugee resettlement from the region, so they are not forced to risk their lives on treacherous journeys.”

In the last twelve months, the IRC has doubled-down on its commitments to the Afghan people. Our teams are now operating across 12 provinces and provide vital health services, education and support for women and girls in communities where we have developed deep relationships with community leaders. At the same time, our teams have tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of women in the humanitarian response and the IRC has maintained a staff body comprising 40% Afghan women.

As the security situation improved, our teams were able to reach remote districts of the country that had been unreachable to humanitarian actors for decades. In Helmand, for example, the IRC is able to deliver essential healthcare, community-based education programmes and cash for work to areas previously cut off by fighting. Meanwhile, improved access meant that the IRC could deliver emergency healthcare assistance to some of the most isolated villages in Afghanistan affected by the earthquake in rural Paktika and Khost.