Afghanistan's suffering deepens

Two years on from the Taliban takeover, humanitarian needs have reached “all-time high”, UN agencies warn.

In Numbers

28.8 million people – two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population – require humanitarian assistance

34 million Afghans live in poverty – this figure has nearly doubled since 2020

15 million people are food insecure, four million are acutely malnourished, three quarters of which are under the age of five
8 million Afghans are displaced worldwide.

1.6 million people have fled Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021


Climate-related droughts, flash floods, locust swarms, and an economic crisis caused by the Taliban seizing power in August 2021 after decades of protracted conflict have left Afghanistan teetering on the brink with close to two-thirds of the population (nearly 30 million people) now in need of emergency aid.

More than 15 million Afghans - around 40 percent of the population - are struggling to meet their basic nutritional needs, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) data shows. Meanwhile 3.2 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, stunting their physical and mental development.

“Afghan families are staring down the barrel of hunger, disease and even potential death as winter approaches,” says the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in its latest country report, in which it also reveals a staggering US$1.3 billion funding shortfall.

“Only a short window of opportunity exists to bring in vital assistance and supplies before the lean season and winter starts, and lives are lost,” the report notes.

“As some parts of the world grapple with man-made and natural hazards, people should not forget that Afghanistan is still facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.”

Necephor Mghendi, IFRC head of delegation for Afghanistan

Two years on from the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, humanitarian needs are at an “all-time high”, the UN says, with the number of families living in poverty doubling in the space of just three years.

International sanctions imposed on the country in response to the Taliban’s claim on power have paralysed Afghanistan’s economy, causing the currency to devalue sharply, businesses to collapse, and the rate of joblessness to soar.

Meanwhile, as crops have failed due to drought, flooding, and movement restrictions, aid flows have also plummeted thanks to many donor governments not recognising the Taliban leadership and cutting off funds.

As a result, vulnerable families are losing support. After being forced to completely cut food supplies for eight million people since April, WFP has now warned it may end assistance to even more people if it is unable to secure additional funding by September.

“The economic situation remains challenging for vulnerable Afghans,” explained Mawlawi Mutiul Haq Khales, the acting president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS). “They have endured immense hardships and primarily rely on humanitarian assistance to get through shocks brought by drought, natural disasters, and economic hardship.”

“Afghan families are staring down the barrel of hunger, disease and even potential death as winter approaches.”

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Despite limited foreign aid reaching Afghanistan, the ARCS, with the help of some its local and international partners, including the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been able to provide humanitarian assistance to some 3.5 million people in the country – including health services, food, and cash.

Necephor Mghendi, the IFRC’s head of delegation for Afghanistan, said it was working to “combine immediate assistance with durable solutions that also address root-causes and vulnerabilities”. He added: “As some parts of the world grapple with man-made and natural hazards, people should not forget that Afghanistan is still facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.”

In parallel, the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) - a pooled fund set up by OCHA – is directing US$14.4 million into local NGOs to support life-saving assistance programmes across the country. Funding for local organisations is extremely important in fragile situations as these smaller NGOs typically have better access to remote populations and lower overheads.

“Humanitarian workers in Afghanistan – particularly our national women staff – have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to assisting vulnerable Afghan communities and families,” explained Daniel Endres, acting UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, adding that during 2022, UN aid reached more than 26 million people across the country’s 401 districts.

Despite the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan, the country rarely makes the headlines, largely overshadowed by conflict in Ukraine, Sudan, and Syria, and more recently, climate-related disasters in Haiti, Greece, and Pakistan.

Afghans, however, are taking their own action and according to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 1.6 million have fled the country since 2021. Around 90,000 people have been granted asylum in America, according to the US government, and a few others have been resettled elsewhere, but the majority remain in limbo, waiting for a decision on their future.

Today, with more than 8.2 million refugees and 3 million displaced internally within Afghanistan, the country has the third largest displaced population in the world, after Syria and Ukraine. - PA