Mariam* is from a rural part of Afghanistan. She fled her home village due to increasing violence and is now living with her relatives.
“Our country has been unstable for many decades,” says Mariam. “However, the conflict that is happening now is more dangerous. Many children have become orphans and many women become widows.”
Tearfund has been working with local partners in Afghanistan for more than 40 years. As conflict and uncertainty erupted across Afghanistan this year, culminating in the events of mid-August, our partners supported hundreds of internally displaced people like Mariam with emergency relief packages.
The work of our partners is on hold for the time being, due to the uncertain situation in Afghanistan. But they are making plans to resume work when they’re able to.
There is enormous need. The recent conflict, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic drought, food insecurity, and poverty, have created a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced from their homes and communities, and people across the country are increasingly vulnerable.
“Back in our village, we never went hungry, we always had enough food from our garden, we also have some livestock,” says Mariam. “Here, we share a room with our relatives, which is fine with us but it is very hard to find work. My husband is ill and we don’t have enough money for his treatment.”
Even before this current situation, more than 18 million Afghans were in need of humanitarian assistance, the majority of them women and children, and more than 5.5 million were internally displaced.
The work of Tearfund’s partners over many years, and in some cases decades, has included maternal health care, mental health care, education for both children and adults, supporting and empowering people with disabilities, projects to improve hygiene and sanitation, and support to help local people enjoy greater food security and earn an income.
Lately they have also been working with the growing number of internally displaced people in the country.
Our partners urgently desire to respond to the need that they are seeing... They are particularly concerned about the situation for vulnerable women and children.
Tearfund’s program officer for Afghanistan, James Montgomery, said: “Our partner staff are telling me that they are seeing much uncertainty in the community about what the future will look like for Afghanistan.
“There are currently limitations on withdrawals from bank accounts of $200 per week which means that larger families are struggling to meet basic needs, and this is on top of rising prices for goods and the impact of drought.
“Our partners urgently desire to respond to the need that they are seeing, but are restricted in what they can do at this point, partly through the banking limitations and partly because of uncertainty about what the new government will allow. They are particularly concerned about the situation for vulnerable women and children.”
In the weeks leading up to the change of leadership in Afghanistan, our partners shared with us about the concerns and anxieties of the people they serve as they witnessed the rapidly changing political situation. One of our local partners said: “There is a lot of anxiety and feelings of hopelessness among community members.” Another shared: “Many people are seeking options for leaving Afghanistan, particularly single women, but there are extremely few options available.”
Abdul* is another Afghan who received emergency food supplies through one of Tearfund’s local partners earlier this year. “I am very happy with your organisation for providing us a very huge package of food and hygiene items,” he says.
Abdul’s situation, like that of so many in Afghanistan, is extraordinarily difficult.
“I had three sons; two of them became victims of the war,” he says. “Now I am responsible for my orphan grandchildren, in this old age. My other son is not able to earn enough to support all my family members. He is just a daily wage labourer and it is hard to find labour work every day.
“War is horrendous,” he says. “The horrors of war cannot be fully illustrated with mere words. I have very bad memories from war.”
Tearfund CEO Matthew Maury said that in the midst of the despair in Afghanistan, Tearfund’s partners were actively putting plans in place to respond to the needs Afghans are facing.
“The images and stories we have all seen coming out of Afghanistan are heartbreaking,” he said. “The needs are immense, as are the opportunities to work for a future with peace and stability. It is upon this hope that we all persevere.”
* names changed