Kabul, Afghanistan, 8 August 2023 — Two years on since the shift in power in Afghanistan, humanitarian needs across the country have skyrocketed. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is warning that cuts to humanitarian aid for Afghanistan have contributed towards a 60% increase in the number of people in need alongside economic collapse, climate change, and reduced access to basic services.
Just 23% of required funds for this year’s humanitarian response plan have been received, compared to 40% this time last year, and this underfunding has contributed to the response reaching two million fewer people during January - April compared to the same period last year.
Despite major obstacles, the humanitarian response has successfully averted famine for the past two winters in a row thanks to donors’ commitment to sustain support for Afghan civilians. The significant scale-up of the humanitarian response has brought the number of people on the brink of famine down by nearly 3 million this year alone - a remarkable feat that disproportionately helped young children, who are most vulnerable during a food crisis.
Since August 2021, the EU has expressed its commitment to continue supporting the Afghan people, mobilising €489m in humanitarian funding. In March 2023, the EU additionally agreed to resume broader support for Afghans, including a six month trial of funding for basic needs projects such as paying salaries for doctors, nurses and teachers.
Against the background of critical funding shortfalls for Afghanistan's appeal this year, the IRC calls on the EU to continue and expand its basic needs funding following the six month trial period. Continued international engagement with Afghanistan through the provision of critical support for the Afghan people is increasingly vital. Underfunding is the biggest constraint today to maintaining and expanding our response, affecting national and local organisations especially.
Salma Ben Aissa, IRC Afghanistan Director, said,
“Since August 15th 2021, Afghanistan has continued to suffer from a rapid economic collapse. Ordinary Afghans have paid the price; people who previously had jobs and were self-sufficient are now reliant on humanitarian aid and many families can no longer afford to feed themselves. Two years later the economy remains cut off from international systems and 28.8 million people require humanitarian assistance, while nearly the entire population lives in poverty. Almost 80% of those in need are women and girls.
“Steps by the international community to expand and support the delivery of humanitarian aid, including through extensive sanctions exemptions, have saved countless lives. This year, in the face of significant challenges humanitarian actors have been able to maintain and expand their activities to deliver life saving assistance to over 17 million Afghans. Thanks to the tenacity and dedication of Afghan aid workers, whose commitment to the Afghan people has never wavered, organisations like the IRC have been able to deliver emergency support to families in remote communities who were unable to receive support before August 2021 when the conflict was ongoing.
“Yet, despite the successes achieved, the IRC is growing deeply fearful for the future of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan in the face of continued funding shortfalls, which put millions of lives at risk. For example, the World Food Programme has been forced to slash food rations and cash assistance to 8 million Afghans this year. Without urgent funding, food assistance could shrink to nothing by October this year. Additionally, funding cuts this year have led to the shutting down of basic health services, including in the form of mobile health teams resulting in hundreds of thousands of Afghans no longer being able to receive health and nutrition support - disproportionately affecting women and girls.
“This is a critical moment for Afghanistan; donors should commit to supporting the humanitarian response in a long-term and flexible manner to ensure assistance continues to reach those that need it most, and that Afghans are able to stand on their own two feet. Without this commitment, millions will continue to face hunger and an uncertain future.”
Afghanistan is one of the International Rescue Committee’s longest-standing programmes, established in 1988. Over the years our support has proven critical to the safety, education and wellbeing of millions of Afghans and we now work with thousands of villages across twelve provinces. With almost 5,000 staff and volunteers, 99% of whom are Afghans and over 40% women, 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.