As donor governments meet tomorrow for a pledging conference to support the crisis in Afghanistan, the IRC calls for bold pledges to humanitarian funding and concrete commitments to halt the economic collapse facing the country. Afghanistan is now the world’s largest-ever humanitarian appeal, requiring a staggering US$4.47 billion in humanitarian aid—quadruple the needs at the start of 2021 and more than is required for either Syria or Yemen.

Since the shift in political power in Afghanistan last August- when the international community ended all non-emergency funding and cut Afghanistan off from international financial systems- the speed of Afghanistan’s economic collapse has been unprecedented. Afghans that could support themselves and their families six months ago are now entirely dependent on aid. With each week that goes by, more Afghans are forced to resort to the unimaginable to survive: since August, the number of Afghans resorting to negative coping capacities has risen sixfold, such as selling young daughters into marriage, pulling children out of school to work, selling organs, skipping meals or taking on high levels of debt. 

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, “Afghanistan is a prime example of System Failure. The international system designed to protect civilians has instead pushed the country towards near total collapse. If the Afghan economy is not resuscitated, the severity of the current humanitarian crisis will only deepen, with dire consequences for life and limb of ordinary Afghans – and it will cost the international community more in humanitarian aid.  Further economic distress will only mean greater displacement, greater insecurity and greater misery.

“Starting at tomorrow’s pledging conference, donors must move forward on two tracks. First, ensuring the livelihoods of Afghan people in the immediate term. With enough funding, humanitarian response will save lives. Essential services like healthcare and education should be seen as indispensable. The World Bank’s recent approval of $1 billion for these and other programs to rebuild Afghans’ livelihoods should move quickly and be used to pay civil servants like healthcare workers and teachers, supporting the delivery of critical services needed by all Afghans. 

“Humanitarian response, however, only addresses the symptoms rather than the drivers of a failing economy. Afghanistan urgently requires a roadmap for international engagement to address the economic crisis, including benchmarks for the release of frozen Afghan assets to the central bank. In the immediate term, this will require donors and financial institutions to help rebuild the capacity of the central bank to operate independently, adhere to international banking standards, and manage the Afghan economy. The urgent work to stave off famine and preventable deaths in the coming weeks and months should not crowd out the important work to halt the trajectory of this crisis and stabilize the economy. Until these measures are taken, Afghan civilians will continue to pay for the transgressions of others with their own lives and suffering.”

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, economic crisis and natural disasters, the IRC works with local communities to identify, plan and manage development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community based education to children, including girls, and cash assistance to uprooted families to buy food, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people start businesses, find jobs and earn an income.