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Muslim charities report on Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis

31st Dec 2021
Muslim charities report on Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis

As temperatures drop to below-freezing, poverty-stricken Afghan families are struggling to cope with the harsh winter, unable to afford the basic items they need to survive. (Photo courtesy of Muslim Hands)

 

Three leading UK-based Muslim aid agencies write for The Muslim News on the humanitarian crisis besieging Afghanistan, the dire need for assistance, their ongoing operations, as well as the challenges exacerbating their race-against-time efforts to support vulnerable Afghans, many of whom are on the brink of starvation this winter.

Lady Fatemah Trust supporting Afghans facing overlapping humanitarian crises

 

Afghans are experiencing multiple overlapping humanitarian crises following the fall of the previous regime and the Taliban’s capture of the country in mid-August. Prices of food and other necessities have skyrocketed.

Most public servants have lost their jobs, many are forced to sell possessions just to eat, and millions have fled the country.

According to a recent UN study, 22.8 million Afghans face acute hunger, with 8.7 million being ‘one step away from starvation.’

The country’s education and healthcare systems were also devastated by the economic and political collapse, especially in rural and low-income areas. UNICEF figures released in November reveal that over 4 million children are not in school and teachers have not been paid for over three months.

Healthcare services, notably gynecological and paediatric, have reached the lowest point in 20 years.
Politics is not the only factor driving the crisis; drought has also affected Afghans, particularly smallholder farmers, in remote areas.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has warned that drought has forced most villagers to migrate in and out of the country, leading to serious crises in cities.

According to Nicholas Bishab, Head of Emergency Response at IOM, about 17 million Afghans, representing 42% of the population, will be affected by drought and famine this year.

Madad, a smallholder farmer from Ghazni southeastern Afghanistan, says severe drought displaced him from his district to Kabul a year before the takeover of Kabul.

“I have been working on my land in Behsood [district of Maydan Wardak province] for many years but due to severe drought and ongoing conflict between government and Taliban, I moved to Kabul last year but yet I have found no job to fulfill my family needs, and recently I sold all my household items and bought food items with the income,” said Mohammad Hussain.

Development programmes: In partnership with local partners, Lady Fatemah Trust is one of the few NGOs supporting Afghans with humanitarian aid and development programmes since 2020. Lady Fatemah Trust’s work is vital since most humanitarian bodies were forced to suspend their operations as they sought to determine the conditions and capacity required for their operations.

Lady Fatemah Trust started its Mothernomic Programme, which enables mothers to develop transferable skills, find their voice, earn an income, achieve independence, and live with dignity by learning vocational skills, creating, and improving capacities for social enterprise development.

In addition, Lady Fatemah Trust has supported thousands of vulnerable households with food commodities in Kabul, Daikondi, Ghazni, and Mazaar. In emergency food assistance, Lady Fatemah Trustfocuses on the most vulnerable families, specifically the displaced, women-led and low-income households in marginalised communities.

Lady Fatemah Trust’s strategy is to inter-link immediate help with long-term development initiatives for communities affected by protracted and repeated crises. Thus, sustainable livelihood, job creation and education initiatives are the cornerstones of Lady Fatemah Trust presence in Afghanistan.

 

Al-Khair implements over 10 projects

Forty years of war, recurring natural disasters, chronic poverty, drought and the Covid-19 pandemic have left 18.4 million Afghans in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, which has resulted in millions being internally displaced, has exacerbated and complicated what was already a highly challenging operational environment. Registered with the Afghan Ministry of Economy, Al-Khair Foundation began its operation in the country on May 23, 2017, to provide emergency relief and development support to at-risk communities.

Since then, Al-Khair Foundation Afghanistan has implemented over 10 projects related to food/nutrition, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), shelter and emergency relief.

Al-Khair Foundation Afghanistan team has served over 50,000 vulnerable people, mainly in Kabul, Helmand, Herat and Kandahar provinces. Al-Khair’s team recently distributed food packs and tents for most vulnerable internally displaced families. We are also supplying water through the repair of wells and the installation of hand pumps. Al-Khair planned to protect vulnerable families from a harsh winter. Afghanistan has a mountainous terrain and cold winters averaging temperatures of 1- °C in January, typically with freezing nights, peaking at 25- °C.

Snowfalls are frequent and sometimes heavy. Keeping harsh winter conditions in view, Al-Khair Foundation Afghanistan is providing winter kits to vulnerable families in targeted areas in district Kabul and Nangarhar.

Each winter kit consists of a pair of quilts, shawls, sweaters, socks for children and elders, sweaters for children, woollen baby caps and gloves.Challenges faced: Al-Khair Foundation Afghanistan is facing several difficulties, including restrictions on cash withdrawal from banks, price hikes for commodities and uncertainty. Yet, despite all challenges, Al-Khair provides relief for those most in need.

Food, winter support, and shelter are urgently needed. Due to the acute shortage of medicines, healthcare assistance is also critical. And in recent weeks, there has been a surge of cases of measles and diarrhoea, according to the World Health Organisation.

 

Muslim Hands winter is hell for Afghanistan’s poor

This winter Muslim Hands plans to provide 35,000 Afghans with emergency food parcels in the Badghis and Maidan Wardak provinces. The charity will also equip vulnerable families with vital supplies such as blankets and warm clothes.

“Winter is hell for the poor people in Afghanistan,” according to the charity’s team on the ground. Temperatures can drop as low as -15 degrees, endangering the lives of those without adequate protection. Moreover, the combined impact of drought, displacement and economic crisis has led to record levels of hunger, with 95% of households not eating enough [World Food Programme].

Humanitarian organisations have warned that winter may isolate large areas of the country – due to landslides and other extreme weather effects.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has stressed the need to ‘act efficiently and effectively’ to ensure families receive aid before then. Muslim Hands are thus prioritising their winter distributions in Afghanistan, with a particular focus on orphans, widows, families with children, elderly people and those with disabilities.

Alongside this emergency response, Muslim Hands continue to run their existing projects which have been providing vital support to Afghans for over two decades.

This includes an award-winning maternal health clinic (Motherkind clinic) and a primary healthcare unit in Kabul. Additionally, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are still receiving free school meals at the Muslim Hands School of Excellence in Kabul. In other provinces, the charity is giving 27,000 girls and boys access to education, through a partnership with UNICEF.

Working on a local level, 100 staff members across the country are engaging communities on major issues such as girls’ education, as part of their strategy for giving children from both genders the best start in life, as well as the opportunity to improve their living conditions.

Muslim Hands have worked in Afghanistan since 1993 and they are invested in continuing their developmental work despite the current instability. Despite this, the charity has temporarily suspended their safe water and sustainable livelihood programmes in Afghanistan to channel more funding into tackling the dire need for food.

The fundraising team has described the emergency food parcels as “life-saving” and is urging donors to protect people from starvation this winter.

“People are selling their possessions, begging on the street, digging through the garbage,” they’ve reported. “They have lost their income and jobs, while the price of food has increased.” As the temperatures plummet, they are directing all their efforts towards providing vulnerable families with regular, nutritious meals this winter.

To learn more about Muslim Hands’ work, visit https://muslimhands.org.uk/appeals/focus-afghanistan.

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