Afghanistan crisis: How CAFOD is responding and how you can help
3 May 2022
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. In 2021, the takeover of power in August by the Taliban led to a deep economic and social crisis, as well as thousands fleeing their homes in fear for their safety. This compounded an existing crisis following periods of drought and decades of conflict.
What is the current situation in Afghanistan?
Over the winter, millions of people were forced to endure hunger, extreme poverty and freezing temperatures. As we emerge into spring, while some people have returned to their homes, Afghanistan's economic situation has continued to get worse and millions of people are still in desperate need of support: food, water, fuel and shelter.
Over half the country’s population – around 24.4 million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has warned. More than eight million people are on the brink of famine, with a million children under the age of five at risk of dying.
We are also deeply concerned about the ongoing closure of girls’ schools, and the long-term impact this will have on the education, empowerment and freedom of girls and women in the country.
“Many people are still struggling to get the food and fuel they need to survive."
Janet Symes, CAFOD's Head of Asia Region
“Although spring is coming, and the need for heating and blankets is less acute, many people are still struggling to get the food and fuel they need to survive," explained Janet Symes, CAFOD's Head of Region for Asia.
"Harvests are a long way off for those who rely on their own produce, and the continuing economic crisis combined with drought and rapidly rising food prices means millions simply don't have the cash to buy what they need."
The situation in Afghanistan is highly complex with decades of conflict that have taken a terrible toll on Afghan people, resulting in deaths, injuries and pushing families further into poverty. Drought and coronavirus have added even greater problems for vulnerable families struggling with hunger and healthcare. Prices were already escalating, but the situation in Ukraine has made this even worse.
How are CAFOD and local experts responding to the situation?
Our local partners are providing food packages and cash assistance to vulnerable families across the country, and in particular some of the most hard-to-reach mountainous regions.
We are supporting Afghans who have urgent humanitarian needs – both within Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries – whilst also continuing to provide longer-term support.
We work with trusted partners who are close to the communities they serve and are therefore able to ensure your donation securely reaches those who need it most.
CAFOD started working in Afghanistan in the late 1980s and a core part of our work has been to support Afghan organisations committed to improving the lives of vulnerable and marginalised people, supporting them to earn a living.
Our local humanitarian experts have carried out rapid assessments to ensure the most vulnerable families are reached as quickly as possible. They are providing short-term cash assistance and emergency food packages to more than 8,000 small-scale farming families - approximately 60,000 people - in over 50 of the most drought-affected villages in the country to allow them to buy basic food for their families and plant their crops for next season.
We are also working with women’s organisations to ensure that women and girls can participate fully in all our programmes.
What has the Catholic Church said about the situation in Afghanistan?
Pope Francis has expressed his “unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan”. He called for prayers “so that the clamour of weapons may cease, and solutions may be found at the negotiating table".
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has called on the UK government to allow more refugees to come to the UK in light of the situation in Afghanistan.
In a joint letter to the Guardian newspaper on 26 August, Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for migrants and refugees of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, urged the British government "to go further in helping at-risk Afghans, human rights defenders and women activists, and create safe passages so that people can find sanctuary without resorting to dangerous journeys.”
How can you help people when there is such poor access to banks?
Many commercial banks now have limited opening, but the situation is still difficult. We are taking careful steps to ensure that our funds reach our partners safely so that they can reach the people in greatest need.
Any money transferred to the partners we work with will be done so securely and safely. CAFOD has a robust due diligence, monitoring and verifying process to ensure that donations reach their intended purpose.
This can mean it takes much longer than usual for our funds to reach our partners, but with good planning our partners are able to ensure the work on the ground continues.
How can CAFOD be sure that aid will get to where it is needed most?
Vital work by our partners has resumed inside Afghanistan. In a changing and uncertain situation, we are also doing everything possible to ensure the wellbeing of local partners and the communities they serve.
Catholic sister agencies are already providing humanitarian aid to affected families in some of the most remote areas of Afghanistan and we are also working with them.
Janet Symes said:
"We are working through organisations in Afghanistan who are getting cash assistance to people in very remote areas, including some of the mountainous areas.
"One partner involved in the cash distribution told me how as soon as people were getting their cash distributions they were going directly to the market to be able to buy food or fuel for their family - to keep their family alive. As a result of people’s generosity, we have been able to start making a difference."
"As a result of people’s generosity, we have been able to start making a difference."
Janet Symes, CAFOD's Head of Asia Region
Are you able to reach the most vulnerable women and children?
CAFOD's Afghanistan Crisis Appeal will ensure that the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan will be assisted based on a thorough needs assessment. On top of the priority list will be older women, women headed households, people with disabilities, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Women are always disproportionately affected in humanitarian situations and in Afghanistan women have again been disproportionately affected by escalating conflict, Covid-19, floods and droughts, and the resulting poverty.
The impact of a Taliban-governed Afghanistan on women’s ability to go to work with guarantees of safety are still unclear. We will only support programmes that ensure women have full access; we are keen to ensure our local partners’ female staff are able to continue their work.