International donor conferences for Afghanistan have been held time and again, for example last November in Geneva, when around ten billion euros were raised for a country that is so dependent on international aid.When the next donor conference begins in Geneva on Monday, in the presence of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, aid will be more urgent than ever. Drought, hunger, economic crisis, hundreds of thousands of displaced people - the problems are complex. International organizations want to help. But the chaos that followed the seizure of power by the Islamist Taliban has made helping even more difficult. So Guterres will probably again demand free access to those in need - and a lot of money. Whether the pledges will then actually be kept is another question altogether.
Probably the biggest problem for Afghans is hunger. 14 million people are affected by it - almost one in three in the country. More than 18 million need assistance. "In 27 of 34 provinces, the food situation is already critical," a spokesman for the UN World Food Program tells the Daily Mirror. The picture he paints testifies to a precarious situation throughout the country, both in urban and rural areas. The need was already great before the withdrawal of the West. However, the insecurity after the takeover has multiplied it.
There is, for example, the temporary collapse of the banking system and the devaluation of the national currency, which further pushed up the already rising food prices. Or the pandemic that is crippling the economy. And a drought that leads to massive shortages even before winter.In addition: "Without sufficient water from the melting snow, farmers will be able to harvest less and food will be even scarcer. This will lead to further displacement within Afghanistan," reports the aid organization Care. In cities such as Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar and Jalalabad, many internally displaced people have sought refuge, according to the World Food Program. They have lost their livelihoods and hope to find work to feed their families. Without money and resources, they are slipping into poverty and need humanitarian assistance.
This is also causing the need for organizations to increase. The U.N. emergency agency OCHA says it needs $606 million for the country by the end of the year. "Basic services in Afghanistan are collapsing. Food aid and other life-saving supplies are running out," spokesman Jens Laerke said last week."There is an enormous need for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan," migration researcher Gerald Knaus told the Daily Mirror. The situation is also exacerbated by the many people seeking protection. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) currently estimates that there are more than 3.5 million displaced persons inside Afghanistan. Some 600,000 have been added this year alone, it said. "Eighty percent of them are women and children. That is the real core of the humanitarian emergency," said a UNHCR spokesperson. "There is a refugee crisis, but it is happening inside the country." In contrast, he said, major refugee movements out of the region are rarely observed.
Knaus, chairman of the think tank European Stability Initiative, confirms that. The borders to neighboring countries are sealed, says the migration researcher. In neighboring countries such as Iran or Pakistan, the UNHCR and its partners registered just 16,500 Afghan refugees this year.Knaus draws his conclusions from this: "We will now have to make proactive efforts to find people in need of protection. Negotiations will be necessary between states that want to take in refugees and the Taliban and regional actors that make this logistically possible," says Knaus. "If legal pathways to enter Western states can be established, if states like Germany take in tens of thousands of people in need of protection at a time, it could be a turning point in the international refugee regime."
Girls and boys growing up in crisis regions have one thing in common: They dream of peace, education, and a decent meal. Children in Afghanistan are no exception. But the reality is completely different. The lives of the youngest children are marked by violence, hardship, exploitation and hopelessness. And this has been the case for 20 years. An entire generation knows nothing but an everyday life marked by misery and war. They have seen brothers and sisters die of hunger, poverty and disease - and things could get much worse after the Americans withdraw and the Taliban take power.
According to estimates by various aid organizations and the United Nations, ten million girls and boys are already dependent on humanitarian aid. The lack of food is having a particularly devastating effect. Almost half of all children under the age of five could be acutely malnourished in the next twelve months. For many families, a nutritious meal is unaffordable. As a result, daughters are forcibly married off, sons are forced to go to work or are recruited by armed groups.
Those who have a roof over their heads can consider themselves lucky. Since the beginning of June alone, 80,000 children have been driven from their homes. They are now refugees in their own country, living with their families in makeshift shelters made of plastic sheets or even in the open air. And the often bitterly cold winter is about to begin.Under these conditions, school attendance is unthinkable. According to Unicef, more than four million children have no schooling. Hassan Noor, Asia director at the Save the Children organization, recently described the situation as follows: "The military has left, but we are urgently calling on the international community to stay and support the children in Afghanistan. With food, clean water, shelter, and education. If that doesn't happen, the efforts of the last 20 years will have been for nothing."
Photo by Sohaib Ghyasi