Community-led food distribution
This report contains Parts I and II. In Part I, we will provide a brief summary of Bamyan Foundation's humanitarian aid package. In Part II, we will share a report from the ground on the unfair distribution of ongoing humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and possible solution and recommendations.
Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis this winter that is deteriorating every day. Millions of Afghans are at risk of famine and the mercy of winter weather. The situation is most dire and dangerous for those communities stigmatized by race and religion and who are systematically targeted by extremist groups. Hazaras, easily distinguishable due to their Asiatic features, are among these groups and continue to face attacks.
Our team has identified thousands of Hazara families in Kabul and many more in the provinces facing severe food shortages this winter. Recently, Bamyan Foundation dispatched an aid package for the amount of $33,260 USD for some of the most at-risk families in in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The supprt includes funds for two schools as well. This initiative is a community-led collaboration between Bamyan Foundation (United States), Baba Mazari Foundation (Australia) and community leaders on the ground in Afghanistan. The aid distribution is as follows:
- $16,260 USD for approximately 176 families in Kabul, Afghanistan
- $5,000 USD for approximately 50 families in DayKundi, Afghanistan
- $5,000 USD for approximately 50 refugeee families in Quetta, Pakistan
- $4,500 USD for 15 Sayed-ul-Shuhada (SUS) students (SUS was attacked in May 2021) studying at Pegah High School (Kabul)
- $2,500 USD for Rahnaward High School (Ghor)
We are grateful for the generous grant from GlobalGiving's Afghanistan Emergency Fund and our supporters' kindness that resulted to this aid package. The impact of this support can be life-saving for these families as they try to survive the coming months, but the urgency and need on the ground is far greater. With your upport, we hope to provide a larger aid package in February or March to reach more at-risk families.
Management Of Humanitarian Aid Distribution to the People of Afghanistan, Especially the Hazaras
According to the United Nations, approximately two-thirds of Afghanistan's population is at risk of starvation. While this statistic is an estimate, it alludes to two underlying problems with aid distribution in the country. First, there is simply not enough aid to meet the needs of all Afghans. Second, for the aid that is available, lack of proper and fair management throughout the distribution process means that not all communities—and in particular the Hazaras—are receiving their fair share of aid. A recently published report by a humanitarian aid organization about the distribution of aid in different regions of the country is evidence of the unfair delivery of aid. It highlights the difference in aid distribution in Daykundi province and central regions of Afghanistan (home to predominantly Hazara population) with other parts of the country.
The following are figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Afghanistan’s “Weekly Humanitarian Update on Afghanistan (November 15-21, 2021)”
- More than 55,000 people in the south of the country need winter assistance.
- 248,000 people in the northeast received food assistance.
- 355,000 people in the north received food aid.
- 138,000 people in the east received humanitarian aid.
- 4,000 people in need of assistance in the west have been identified.
- 2,800 people in Daykundi province in the central regions of the country received humanitarian aid.
The above statistics and the linked report highlight the weaknesses in the infrastructure, or lack thereof, of humanitarian aid monitoring and distribution in Afghanistan. Based on this and other reports, the challenges and problems are noted below and then a set of recommendations and possible solutions are outlined. In the last two pages of this document, challenges of aid organizations like World Food Program (WFP) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are highlighted.
A) Challenges as seen/witnessed by Hazaras (community leaders, village elders and members of civil society):
- The people hired by international organizations are mostly of one ethnicity, and Hazaras and other minorities are less likely to be hired, which is why aid is often directed to specific groups and ethnicities.
- The Taliban distribute aid unjustly based on their ethnic, religious, and political biases. For example: in the southern and eastern provinces, the Taliban have distributed up to $500 for each family, but in Daykundi, a central province, a bag of flour and/or up to 8,000 Afghanis (which is equivalent to about $77) were distributed per family. Daykundi and most of central regions of Afghanistan is home to the Hazaras, who are among the poorest people in Afghanistan, because they have little access to agricultural lands, fewer livestock, lack of access to business, and job opportunities across cities in Afghanistan. However, the economic situation of the people of the south and east is relatively satisfactory in comparison to Daykundi and the central provinces. Even inside Kabul, the difference in the distribution of aid is apparent from the west of Kabul, which is mostly poor, to the east of Kabul, both in the number of people supported and the type and amount of aid distributed. The predominantly Hazara neighborhoods in west of Kabul rarely receive any assistance at all, and if there is aid, it is either too small of an amount or too little to distribute across the neighborhoods in comparison to other parts of Kabul.
- In the cities, humanitarian aid often does not reach the poor and needy because neighborhood influencers such as political affiliates, ethnic influential, mullahs, and the rich collude to loot aid. There have been cases where food and aid supplies re-emerge from grocery stores and sold to the very poor (for whom it was originally intended) at exorbitant prices.
- The Taliban distribute most of the aid to their troops and members of their tribe.
- Proper surveys are not conducted to identify poor families. Beneficiary lists rely on sources such as neighborhood influencers in cities and districts, and in rural areas, members of development councils, leaving room for bribes and looting.
- Aid is not distributed according to priorities and the poverty line in Afghanistan is not clearly defined and uniform. For example, in Daykundi and Bamyan, poor people are defined as those who have no food to eat, but in Paktia and Nangarhar, poor people are those who have land and enough food but are not businessmen or investors. This flawed definition and system is still in place and nothing has been done in this regard.
- During the winter, roads in many cold and isolated provinces are closed, making it impossible to deliver aid to the poor. No measures have been taken in this regard.
- A significant proportion of eligible individuals include the most vulnerable population, such as widows (often women with many children and no support system), orphans, and people with disability. However, there is no specific allocation of aid distribution to this population. Many of these eligible individuals have no connection to influential people that can advocate on their behalf, and many remain unidentified because there are no proper surveys conducted prior to aid delivery.
B) Humanitarian aid distributed through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not reach the beneficiaries in the Hazara areas for the following reasons:
- In predominantly Hazara areas, for example in Bamyan and Daykundi provinces, the ICRC has no presence (there are no representative offices). In these areas, the ICRC implements its programs and activities through the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS). Unfortunately, ARCS, like many other government entities, is now controlled by the Taliban, particularly among its leadership and decision-making personnel.
- In the provinces where ICRC has an office, most of the key positions within the organization are held by Pashtuns. Additionally, due to a shortage of staff at ICRC, they rely heavily on ARCS staff and volunteers, which ultimately leads to the intervention and influence by the ARCS leadership, who are Pashtun or Taliban.
- Unfortunately, the ICRC is not independent in its practice. Whether under the previous government or under the current Taliban government, their program implementation is influenced by the government (Taliban now) and the ARCS.
- In recent weeks, the ARCS in Daykundi distributed aid, which reached more than 200 families. However, most of this aid was distributed among members of the Taliban government who work in the district offices in Nili and a substantial amount was also distributed to the Pashtun families who came from Gizab, Daya, and Ajiristan areas.
Problems with World Food Program (WFP):
- The World Food Program (WFP), unfortunately, like the ICRC, does not have any representative offices in the Hazara regions and provinces.
- Both during the previous government and the current regime, the Country Head of WFP and in key positions and the decision-making level, are Pashtuns. And often these leadership personnel acted discriminatory towards aid distribution by the WFP. This meant rarely aid would be distributed to Hazara communities and regions.
- WFP, frequently, does not implement programs and distribute aid directly, but rather acts through other domestic institutions, and in turn aid is distributed based on an unfair quota system and inconsistent poverty definition in Hazara areas.
- Institutions that implement WFP’s program often pay more attention to the promotional and theatrical aspect of aid delivery than to identifying and delivering aid fairly.
Problems with other aid delivery institutions that oversee humanitarian aid in Hazara regions:
- The institutions that operate in Daykundi and Bamyan provinces work with government agencies in charge of disability, disaster management, and the office for refugees and returnees. Examples of such institutions are Afghan Aid, Cordaid, and Abrar, all of whom are instructed by these government agencies to start their activities in Pashtun areas where the survey collection has already begun. Little attention is given to Hazara areas, where the conflict has displaced thousands of people and drought and forced displacements have pushed many families to sell their kidneys and their children ahead of a harsh winter.
- Recently, the streets, markets and hotels of the capital of Daykundi province, Nili, are full of Pashtuns from Gizab, Daya, and Ajiristan areas of Uruzgan and Ghazni provinces, who have come to Nili to receive aid and return to their homes, dividing an already smaller share of aid that has been allocated to Daykundi province.
C) Possible Solutions and Recommendations for WFP, UN, ICRC and other aid distribution organizations:
- The employment of people in the provinces and the headquarters of organizations, including aid organizations, should be done in a fair and transparent manner. Special attention should be paid to ensure that the leadership isn’t always from one ethnic group and there should not be any affiliation of employees with regional and extremist groups.
- There must be a transparent monitoring mechanism for the distribution of aid.
- Prevent ethnocentric actions in the management of aid distribution.
- Prevent the looting and corruption of aid by regional/neighborhood influencers like the political affiliates, mullahs, and the rich.
- Prevent the unequal distribution of aid in rural areas by separating the poor from the rich through a proper survey mechanism.
- Prevent the Taliban militias, their family members, and tribes from hoarding the aid. (In Bamyan, aid was received by the Tajik Taliban militia, and only a very small number of poor and Hazara people were able to benefit).
- Conduct a careful assessment and survey of eligible poor families and beneficiaries. (There have been significant changes in the poverty rate since the fall of the previous government, and many former low-level government employees are now among the poor).
- Aid should be distributed according to a precise and uniform prioritization and definition of poverty and not based on ethnicity, province, and district.
- Certain measures must be taken to keep roads open to cold and deprived provinces such as Daykundi, Bamyan, Ghor, and some parts of Badakhshan, so that aid can arrive in the winter and food scarcity in the markets can be prevented.
- And most importantly, special assistance should be provided to widows, orphans and the disabled, some of whom have received a certain pension from the government in previous years.
Community-led food distribution
Hazaras subtly protesting unfair aid distribution
Community-led food distribution
community-led food distribution