Six months since the shift in power in Afghanistan, humanitarian needs across the country have skyrocketed. 97% of the population is expected to be living well below the poverty line by the second half of this year.

The IRC is calling for an urgent policy reset: EU leaders must lead international efforts to address the economic crisis to enable ordinary Afghans to meet their basic needs. The US’s agreement this week to unfreeze $7 billion in assets from Afghanistan's central bank to prevent further collapse of economy and society is an important recognition of the importance of economic activity to the alleviation of humanitarian need. 

As the freezing winter conditions worsen, millions of families are finding themselves in desperate circumstances. Almost 23 million Afghans - more than half of the country’s population - are facing acute food insecurity. One million children are at risk of the most severe form of malnutrition. Unaddressed, the current humanitarian crisis could lead to more deaths than twenty years of war. 
Vicki Aken, IRC Afghanistan Director, said:  
“The IRC works across dozens of crisis and conflict settings, but we have not seen an entire country deteriorate this fast in recent years. Since August, the international community has cut off non-humanitarian funding, which amounted to 40% of GDP and propped up 75% of public spending, including basic services. This economic crisis is contributing to a catastrophic humanitarian emergency that has left a quarter of the population facing the risk of famine - the largest population experiencing such extreme levels of hunger in the world. Afghan families are being forced into more and more desperate measures of survival. Mothers and their children are sitting in snowfall, begging for money; parents are forced to sell their daughters into early marriage to bring cash for their families.  
“Afghanistan’s slide towards catastrophe is primarily driven by the policies of the international community, rather than conflict or natural disaster. For millions of Afghans, survival depends on their ability to access humanitarian aid, but humanitarian aid cannot replace the functions of the state. Drastic cuts in aid have been compounded by the freezing of Afghan assets and confusion around international sanctions that are driving a financial crisis that reaches into every corner of Afghan life. Ordinary Afghans need more than aid - they need a functional banking system and economy so that businesses can withdraw cash to pay their employees, people can earn a living, pay for food at markets and support their families. 
“Right now, everyday Afghans are being punished by international policies that are leaving millions on the brink of starvation. The next six months necessitate an improvement, and the power to ensure it happens lies in the hands of the international community. The cost of failure is too high.” 

Harlem Desir, IRC Senior Vice President, Europe, said: 
“The EU has shown leadership in Afghanistan since the outset of the current crisis - swiftly rallying member states to support a package of €1b, including a portion of ‘humanitarian plus’ funding, to step up vital support to the Afghan population. This will be critical to sustain livelihoods, protect public health and support education.  
“However, the desperate situation faced by millions in Afghanistan requires the EU and European leaders to show a much greater level of ambition - by deploying a wider set of legal, diplomatic, and financial tools. Three immediate steps in the right direction would be to release the rest of the €1bn Afghanistan package to support service delivery at a larger scale, unfreeze Afghan assets held in European banks, and clarify the limits of sanctions. 
“In addition to these urgent actions to address the escalating humanitarian catastrophe inside the country, greater efforts are needed by the EU to fully uphold the right to asylum for those fleeing Afghanistan by expanding safe, legal pathways for Afghans to access protection in Europe.”

The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across ten 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, community based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.