Part 1: A Harsh Winter
Written by Zuhra Dadgar-Shafiq, Programme Director and Co-Founder of Action for Development who provide vital health and education services in Afghanistan to the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals through cost-effective, cascade-model projects that allow for community participation and empowerment.
Afghanistan has been struggling with conflict for over 40 years. The situation has recently been exacerbated due to the dire political context and the takeover of the Taliban resulting in social, economic and political instability in the country that has left many people in extremely poor conditions. Currently, it is expected that around 55% of the population (almost 20 million people) will be in food crisis emergency phase 3 and 4 . The WFP has confirmed that one in two people in Afghanistan do not have enough to eat at least once a day.
In addition to the ongoing protracted conflict, the climatic conditions add a burden to the agriculture sector that is suffering from limited investment and low productivity. The food crisis is on the rise caused by the extreme poverty conditions and extreme weather and climatic conditions. Poor pasture conditions and high food prices driven by drought have left over three million livestock at critical risk during winter and has already resulted in increased distress livestock sales. Climate change has caused declining precipitation, putting additional pressure on water resources already strained from population growth. In addition to the drought, more than 29,000 people in 13 provinces were affected by other natural disasters– mostly floods.
Winter is usually very harsh in Afghanistan – particularly in the north, middle lands, and west, since these are high altitude locations. Many people were unable to save enough for winter, and even those who were able to save some heating have lost it due to displacements from July onwards. Life is miserable in the cold winter with no proper heating, high prices for gas, wood and coal. There is high population movement and displacement (due to forced migration from north and central lands mainly), and this might increase as prices and unemployment are on the rise.
Shaieqa is 13 years old, originally from Ghazni province. Her mother passed away 3 years ago, after she gave birth to her 5th child, and left 6 month old Najia. When Shaieqa’s mother got sick, her father came to Kabul and sold his kidney to treat his wife. However, the treatment was not successful and finally the mother passed away. Shaieqa is the eldest child, therefore, she has to work hard to take care of her brothers and sisters. Shaieqa has been selling notebooks, pens, sacks, bread on the streets to make a small living and buy some food. Her father, after selling his kidney, also fell sick and cannot work anymore. For this winter they did not have any heating supply, so her father collects cartons and some items that they can burn during the night to survive the cold.
Shaieqa joined AfD school for street children in 2020, and is now able to read and write. She is happy and feels confident when she reads the titles on the shops, and ads on the street. She says that if life permits, she would like to be a teacher in the future.
With the onset of winter, there is a need for emergency assistance to mitigate adverse health, food security, and livelihood impacts of the harsh weather conditions. Food assistance is needed to prevent further exacerbation of wasting and malnutrition. Protection assistance to refugees, IDPs and returnees, provision of support for accessing essential health services, in addition, support to COVID-19 response. Shelter needs remain also significant due to conflict and natural disasters.