Building resilience

Medair’s response in southern Afghanistan

Examination of Baryali by a doctor in Medair-supported health facility in Southern Afghanistan. ©Medair

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been exacerbated due to the influx of Afghan returnees from Pakistan. The people of Afghanistan are currently suffering from lack of access to basic services, entrenched poverty, prolonged drought-like conditions,¹ the impact of climate change, natural disasters, and economic turmoil.²

On 3rd October 2023, Pakistan introduced the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan”, requiring all undocumented immigrants to leave the country. This policy, which came into effect on 1st November 2023, is estimated to impact over 1.3 million Afghan refugees. As of 10th February 2024, more than 515,000 Afghans, approximately 20% of whom are children under 5, have left Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan through the Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings

The situation at the border and the humanitarian needs of these returnees are dire. They generally arrive in Afghanistan with few belongings and a lot of uncertainty for their future. Limited resources are available for the returnees, and Medair’s response and services in the southern region of Afghanistan are providing essential support to these vulnerable women and children, as they are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to health care.

2024 is Medair’s 28th year of operating in Afghanistan. Medair offers a range of services such as health, nutrition, psychosocial support, water and sanitation, and emergency food security assistance to the most vulnerable people, including returnees from Pakistan. Medair’s response to the border crisis, as well as the broader humanitarian crisis, aims to enhance access to healthcare, nutrition and psychosocial services, sanitation and safe/clean water. An important aspect of this work is in raising awareness about common diseases and what can be done to prevent them. The Medair teams also provide health education about the importance of vaccinations, clean water and hygiene, nutrition for pregnant woman and children, breastfeeding support, and advice on how to cope with stress.

Malali is a 40-year-old mother who had the opportunity to benefit from Medair services.

“We recently returned from Pakistan. We currently do not have a place to call home, and we have brought nothing with us. My little son Baryali was hungry, and we could not afford to buy him milk, and my lactation was insufficient to feed him. I’m coming to this clinic; the first time I came here, they provided me supplements that really [positively] impacted my son’s condition. I’m very happy about my son’s condition now, and I really thank the personnel of this clinic for the help they provided. I have nothing, except hope for finding food, shelter, and good health for my children.”

Malali’s child, Baryali, was diagnosed with Moderate Acute Malnutrition and was given ready-to-use supplementary food. This supplement is rich in vitamins and minerals and one of the reasons Baryali’s condition improved.

Ahmad Shah, a clinic supervisor for a Medair-supported clinic in southern Afghanistan, shares the profound impact of the work being done.

A child and her mother receiving free supplements in one of Medair’s health centers in Southern Afghanistan. ©Medair

“People from various nearby and distant locations come to our clinic. Our patients include both residents and returnees. Every day, we provide essential services to numerous returnees including healthcare services, nutrition, psychosocial support and vaccinations. These services have a significant impact, especially for returnees who have come back empty-handed, with no belongings. These individuals are in dire need of clothing, food, shelter, and healthcare. The local population in this area is sizable, and the services are insufficient. Despite the challenges, my team remains dedicated, energetic, and enthusiastic. I’m really proud of the work we’re doing and the contribution we’re making to support these vulnerable people.”

Women and children pictured in the waiting area at one of Medair’s health centers in Southern Afghanistan. ©Medair

Medair stands firm in its commitment to support vulnerable communities in Afghanistan. Despite the challenges, much-needed humanitarian aid from organizations such as Medair continues to have life-saving impacts. Medair is grateful for the generous support from our donors, which enables us to continue these services and respond to the growing humanitarian needs of the Afghan population.

*All of the names in this article have been changed due to protection concerns