Half of Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, People in Need has supported 16,000 people

Published: Feb 1, 2022 Reading time: 8 minutes
Half of Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, People in Need has supported 16,000 people
© Foto: People in Need Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, 24.4 million people – roughly the population of Australia – are in need of humanitarian assistance. Millions of Afghans have no idea where their next meal will come from. The deadly combination of conflict, back-to-back drought, COVID-19, and economic freefall has created one of the worst food crises in the world. Afghanistan now has the highest number of people with acute food insecurity in the world. 

According to Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, more than one in two children under-five is facing acute malnutrition and will be at risk of death if immediate action is not taken.

“The biggest problem is that almost all Afghans, more than 95% of the country, have been forced to adjust their diet, skip meals and do not have access to key nutrition,” says Klara Mičkalová, People in Need Afghanistan Country Director. For example, in Kabul, some three million inhabitants – two-thirds of the population – does not have enough to eat. “Another huge problem is access to potable water. Data show that eight out of 10 people are drinking contaminated water. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of people do not have sufficient shelter where people can stay during cold winter months. Nor do people have access to appropriate health care because they do not have money for treatment and many hospitals are simply closed or overloaded. Moreover the factors have also multiplier effect.”

More than half the population in need of humanitarian assistance

Complicating the situation further, many state employees like government officials, teachers, doctors, and nurses have not received a salary for several months, International Labour Organization report estimates that more than 500 000 jobs have been lost since the Taliban takeover, with disproportionate loss of jobs among women, contributing to a spike in urban poverty. "We can see the deteriorating situation every day with our own eyes,” says Mičkalová. “People are increasingly desperate, having spent their savings a long time ago. Now, they are using dangerous coping mechanisms, like sending children to work if available, reaching debilitating debts, begging or even human trafficking. With winter, heavy snow and temperatures below zero have made a desperate situation even worse."

With two fully functional offices, foreign staff members present in the country since November, along with a team of national colleagues operating in the field, People in Need (PIN) is working hard to provide aid to the most vulnerable. Since October, when distributions of humanitarian aid resumed after the Taliban takeover, PIN has supported over 16,000 people with delivering humanitarian assistance for nearly 450,000 USD. "Recipients of the aid are mainly women-headed households, and families with a many children or seniors; we are supporting them mainly with cash distributions," says Mičkalová. “Cash aid is used by people to buy food, repair shelters, pay rent, winterise homes, purchase fuel for heating, or to pay for medical treatment.”

Here are some of the stories of supported people:

Peace so that our children can study

Bibi Hamida fled from Maidan Wardak to Kabul with her family of six because of fighting. They managed to bring just essential clothes with them. "What we need most at the moment are carpets, dishes, and clothes," says Hamida, 32. "With the cash received we will pay the electricity bill and purchase necessary food as we are running out." Bibi Hamida says that if there will be jobs available, such support will be not needed. But she is very worried about the future, especially during cold winter months. “In winter, we need mainly fuel," she says. And what’s her biggest wish? "Peace that our children will be able to continue education and find a good job.”

I need a job to support my family

Najilah’s family has five members. They fled to Kabul from Bamyan province due to conflict and the lack of job opportunities. "I was not able to bring anything with me; we were just able to saee ourselves," says Najilah. "I felt sadness that I left my birthplace but at the same time I was a bit happy that there is no fighting around anymore," he adds. Currently, Najilah is in urgent need of shelter, clothes, food, and household items. He spent the cash support from PIN to buy food and to pay rent. "I feel happiness and appreciate your kind support, however, my problems have only been partially solved," he adds, suggesting that what Afghans need most are sustainable job creation projects. "Since I am a graduate from high school I need job to support my family."

If it rains we will return to our place of origin

Fighting and drought forced 50-year-old Dunyah and five family members to flee from Bamyan province. She managed to take only a carpet and some mattresses and pillows with her on the way to Kabul. "Now we need clothes, food, dishes, blankets, and most importantly, jobs," she says. Dunyah heard about PIN’s support from community representatives. Later, a PIN team visited her house to conduct a needs assessment and make plans for cash distribution. "We are so grateful that we can purchase food and medicine now,” she says. “My husband is sick, so we need more support nowadays for his treatment." Dunyah’s biggest wish is that her daughter and son will find good jobs. "If the situation gets better and it will rain, we will return to our place of origin."

I will buy fuel for heating

Farzana Khoja Zadah’s family has eight members. They fled Kunduz due to the war and a lack of jobs. "We were happy to flee the insecurity but later the disappointment came with the life in poverty and unemployment," says the 26-year-old mother. She says that they were lucky to survive and were not able to bring anything with them to Kabul. "We need some shelter, house equipment, and I have small children, so fuel is needed during the winter." Recently, a PIN team visited her family and selected them for cash distribution. "I used the money to pay for rent and now I will buy fuel for heating. It is very good assistance and I hope that it will continue," says Farzana. "I am an educated lady, and my husband is a carpenter, we just need a job." Farzana’s biggest wish is to have a house and that her children will attend the school.

All my small children are collecting plastic in the street

Bibi Awah is 65 years old. She is displaced because of the conflict and her family of eight was not able to bring anything with them because of the security situation. "We need mainly food, clothes, house equipment, and other things,” she says. “In the beginning we did not receive any help, so I took a loan from a bank." With the cash from PIN she bought food for the family. "Due to the fact that I took loan I have to pay monthly, so the help is not sufficient. All my small children are selling plastic collected from dustbins in the streets." She adds: "Honestly, it is very difficult to make some plans with an empty stomach. My biggest wish is that my economic situation will improve so that I can send my children to school."

I want to find a job and to send my brother to school

Abedullah, 23, fled Paktia province for Kabul together with seven family members. "We have been displaced in Kabul for six months already and due to the war, I have lost my animals like cows and sheep. Not just me, most of the people lost their animals, homes, or properties. In the beginning I felt happiness that I can get a job and start a new life. But we faced many challenges as well.”

For instance, Abedullah says that while relatives supported his family by bringing food, they still need fuel for heating. “I am so happy that your colleagues came so high to the mountains [where we live] to assess our situation," says Abedullah, the eldest son and who works hard to support his family. As a student of wood breakers, he wishes to attend vocational training, to find a job, and to send his younger brothers to school.

People in Need’s assistance to people in Afghanistan is possible thanks to the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Alliance 2015, and contributors to PIN’s Afghanistan Emergency Appeal and PIN’s Club of Friends.

20 years in Afghanistan

People in Need opened its mission in Afghanistan in 2001, and over the last 20 years, has helped hundreds of thousands of Afghans feed themselves, build or repair their homes, schools, and clinics, and establish essential infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and water supplies. PIN places particular emphasis on improving the use of natural resources and systemic support for agriculture, including direct support to farmers.
Autor: Petr Stefan and PIN Afghanistan team

Related articles