Afghanistan Crisis: Fast Facts

Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis has displaced millions of people. Millions more are in dire need of aid. Here’s what you should know and how you can support community-led responses.


1. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is the largest in the world.

An estimated 28.8 million people require immediate humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan—up from 18.4 million people before the takeover by the Taliban in 2021. Despite these needs, 10 million people were cut off from life-saving aid due to a massive funding shortfall in 2023. That is projected to worsen the acute food insecurity communities face across the country. The United Nations estimates 2.8 million people currently face emergency levels of acute food insecurity.

Making matters worse, the Afghan health care system is also critically underfunded and unable to meet community needs. The World Health Organization has warned that the health sector requires an additional $413 million in assistance to avoid a full sector collapse. And brain drain from the country has reduced the number of health care professionals capable of providing services. Without funding increases, the UN predicts 8 million people in Afghanistan will lose access to health care.

Afghanistan has also suffered from persistent drought over the past three years, which has taken its toll on farmers, food security, and the country’s economy—a third of which is generated by agriculture. Millions of people are dependent on humanitarian aid during the winter, which is especially harsh in Afghanistan. Last year, more than 150 people died after facing extreme winter cold with minimal aid.
Source: UNOCHA + CNN + Relief Web + RadioFreeEurope

Support people affected most by the crisis in Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Emergency Fund.

2. The number of Afghan refugees has doubled since 2021.

More than 8.2 million Afghans are hosted across 103 different countries. The vast majority are living in Pakistan and Iran. Afghan refugees there face violence, threats of deportation, and protection issues. Pakistan’s crackdown on migrants since Nov. 1 is targeting all undocumented or unregistered foreigners, which affects about 2 million Afghans in Pakistan without documentation. In response to the crackdown, hundreds of thousands of Afghans returned to Afghanistan within a month. That influx of people adds to the existing humanitarian pressures in the country.

Pushbacks and rhetoric in Europe are affecting refugees and migrants, including Afghans. This year alone, more than 2,500 refugees died at sea trying to seek refuge in Europe—the highest death toll since 2015. And Afghans are in the top three groups taking this risky voyage.

Afghans who were evacuated to the US after the Taliban takeover are still stuck in limbo. Many live with temporary residency set to expire this year, and a large majority of Afghan refugees have not been granted an extension.

At least 3.2 million Afghans are displaced within their own country. This number has only grown since the earthquakes in October. Among those in the impacted area were many returnee refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been displaced by disasters and conflict, only to be forced to start over again. Internally displaced communities face serious risks, such as lack of reliable income, access to basic services, and shelter.
Source: UNCHR + The Associated Press + Relief Web + VOA

3. Natural hazards are adding to the crisis in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is highly prone to disasters such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, and droughts. Among low-income countries, Afghanistan is second in terms of the number of fatalities from disasters between 1980-2015. The changing climate also poses a threat to Afghanistan as many Afghans rely on farming for their livelihood. Natural hazards can disrupt sustainable food sources and income, affecting at least 200,000 people in Afghanistan every year.

After a devastating earthquake in 2022, three major earthquakes struck Afghanistan in October, killing more than 1,300 people and injuring at least 1,700 more. That made it the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan’s recent history. The vast majority of those killed were women and girls. This is because women and girls were more likely to be at home without information on earthquake preparedness, due to restrictions imposed on their rights and mobility.

Disasters in Afghanistan—like these earthquakes—further challenge community-based organizations and aid agencies in meeting community needs. It also strains the remaining local infrastructure. Of the few remaining medical facilities in the country, 40 were damaged by the recent earthquakes. And the Taliban’s increasingly repressive policies have made it even more difficult to deliver aid during and after disasters.
Source: Relief Web + The New York Times + UN Women + UN News + The Conversation

4. Freedom and opportunities are shrinking for Afghan women and girls.

Over the past two years, basic freedom and security for women, girls, and other minority groups have been restricted dramatically across Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, the defacto government has banned girls from school beyond the sixth grade. In December 2022, they also banned women from going to universities. These policies make Afghanistan one of the most restrictive countries on girls’ education in the world. In response, underground schools have emerged where children, especially girls, can learn. In some areas, classes have moved online. However, frequent Taliban inspections in search of these schools make this alternative tenuous and dangerous.

The Taliban has also restricted Afghan women from most jobs—including at salons and with NGOs, although there are exemptions for emergencies and health care. Many women still working in those sectors have not been paid because health care and education were almost entirely financed by foreign donors, whose aid has been cut off or slowed.

Under the conditions in Afghanistan, women’s health is deteriorating. With their limited access to health care, they are experiencing some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. Women and girls’ mental health has also sharply declined since 2021. There has been a surge in the number of women committing or attempting suicide under such harsh and restrictive policies.

Ethnic groups in Afghanistan and members of minorities such as the Hazara community are also acutely affected by the Taliban takeover. UN investigations have reported incidents of arbitrary arrests, torture, executions, and enforced disappearances for these groups. Hazara, Shia, and other religious minorities have historically faced discrimination and abuse in Afghanistan, but the increase has been significant in the past two years. Similarly, many LGBTQ+ community members are in hiding to protect themselves against torture and even murder by the defacto government.
Source: DW + The Associated Press + CNN + REUTERS + UNICEF + Human Rights Watch

Support people affected most by the crisis in Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Emergency Fund.

5. Funding shortfalls and instability are hampering aid efforts.

The Afghan economy was unstable even before the defacto government’s 2021 takeover. However, the economy has crumbled since then and caused a drastic uptick in humanitarian needs. Before August 2021, about 90% of Afghans lived on an income of less than $2 per day, and 75% of public spending was funded by foreign aid grants. But with the Taliban takeover, international development assistance was almost entirely paused. The country’s central bank was isolated from the international banking system, and the United States froze billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves. With minimal cash in hand, private Afghan banks are struggling to process withdrawals, even for humanitarian organizations trying to access funds to operate their programs.

These challenges have made aid agencies suspend or reduce critical essential services, reduce staff salaries, and cut other costs. UN humanitarian appeals and calls for aid for Afghanistan often fall short of the amount requested. In October 2023, the World Food Programme urgently requested $400 million to help the most vulnerable 7 million people get through the coming winter after previously announcing that it would only be able to provide emergency assistance to 3 million people per month. At least 10 million Afghans have lost assistance from the WFP this year.
Source: PBS + CNN

Support people affected most by the crisis in Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Emergency Fund.

6. GlobalGiving partners are already on the ground helping Afghans access food, shelter, and other emergency services.

GlobalGiving is working with dozens of community-led nonprofit partners like Action for Development, Charmaghz Cultural Services Organization, Afghanistan-Pakistan Women’s Economic Empowerment, and MADRE, An International Women’s Human Rights Organization to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of people facing the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Afghan diaspora- and refugee-led nonprofits such as Aseel Foundation, Afghan Institute of Learning, Aid Afghanistan for Education, and Bamyan Foundation are also continuing to respond to needs. These organizations have filled gaps in services for those most impacted in Afghanistan, including by providing emergency food distributions during the winter, rubble clearance, and vital health care after earthquakes. They also provide ongoing education support. With every new ban and obstacle, they continue to look for solutions to support Afghans inside and outside the country.
Source: GlobalGiving Afghanistan Emergency Fund

7. Cash is the best way to help people in need during a humanitarian crisis like the one in Afghanistan.

Why? People’s needs vary greatly, especially during protracted crises such as the emergency in Afghanistan. Communities need everything from financial support, medical care, psychological assistance, and food aid to education programs. They also require long-term investment in infrastructure and livelihood opportunities so communities can move from survival mode to greater safety, security, and well-being. With jobs, Afghans can invest in their economy and help stabilize the banking system. They will need support now and years down the road. You can learn more about the importance of cash donations in this infographic.
Source: GlobalGiving + USAID Center for International Disaster Information

Support people affected most by the crisis in Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Emergency Fund.


Featured Photo: Support vulnerable families in rural Afghanistan by Afghanaid

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