David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, “Humanitarian needs in Afghanistan were already some of the largest in the world at the start of the year, when IRC ranked Afghanistan second on Watchlist 2021. Now the situation is rapidly worsening by every measure. 18.4 million people in Afghanistan require humanitarian assistance – a doubling since last year that has left nearly half of the country in need of aid. 75% of those in need are women and girls. Not to mention dramatic food insecurity levels and drought. Maintaining a sufficient humanitarian response requires the US to lead the way and rally others to lead, too. The humanitarian response is a lifeline for millions. Decisions on humanitarian funding to Afghanistan must remain needs-based and divorced from political considerations.

“To keep humanitarian operations going in the short term and lay the foundation for a scaled up response when conditions allow, the humanitarian effort in Afghanistan requires more funding that is fit for purpose. We urge the US to (1) immediately surge emergency humanitarian funding to the crisis, (2) channel that funding to frontline NGOs who have long and deep roots in Afghan communities, and (3) ensure that funding is flexible enough to allow humanitarian actors to adapt and move staff and resources within the country as access, security, and needs change. Humanitarian organisations like the IRC are committed to remaining in Afghanistan and continuing to deliver support to its population. It is vital that world leaders enable support to Afghanistan as well. 

“The US government and donors should provide greater funding that is flexible and driven by needs, and channel funds to frontline actors. As the largest donor to the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, the US should rally other donors to step up funding. Higher volumes of funding should go directly to NGOs on the ground, who have been in these communities for decades, who understand the needs, have the trust and can scale up quickly. Donors currently channel the majority of humanitarian funding for Afghanistan through UN agencies, which then cascade a portion of their funding to NGOs. Given the severity of needs and the unpredictability of the operating environment, direct funding to NGOs on the ground is the most efficient and timely way to reach Afghans in need. 

“US humanitarian funding has remained flat despite the doubling in needs in Afghanistan this year, falling from $276 million in FY20 to $266 million in FY21. The US’ failure to increase funding this year has undoubtedly undermined the US’ ability to galvanize other donors to do more. For most of the past decade, UN appeals for Afghanistan consistently received 70% or more of the required funds. Last year, the humanitarian response received just 52% of the required funding - the lowest percentage of funding since 2012, which failed to keep up with major increases in need. More than halfway through this calendar year, the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan has received only 37% of the required funds for 2021, jeopardizing life-saving aid. 

“Without sufficient and timely aid, Afghans will be forced to resort to negative coping strategies to survive – such as child marriage, child labor, selling off assets, and reducing food consumption.”