Out of the shadows

1 year after the world watched Afghanistan change

On 14 August 2021, Medair’s Anna Coffin was leaving Kabul after her regular visit to the country programme. She had travelled to remote and rugged places where the team was supporting people who were enduring an ongoing drought, decades of conflict, and were struggling to feed their families. The country was in upheaval. It wasn’t clear whether humanitarian aid agencies would be permitted to continue working, and Medair’s services were needed more than ever.

Afghanistan often appears on the list of neglected crises and under-reported humanitarian emergencies. Since 1996, Medair’s team of national and international staff have been able to improve how communities access safe water, help families understand how to prevent diseases that threaten children, and have supported health clinics and treatment of malnutrition. Afghanistan has never been an easy place to work, but for Anna and Medair colleagues, it is a country of breath-taking beauty and warm hospitality.

Throughout August of 2021, Afghanistan was in the news, and on the 15th, a Sunday, headlines on every continent announced that the change in control of the country was complete. In the days that followed, the Medair Afghanistan team was quickly working to confirm lines of communication in every community where we have active projects. As an aid organisation, we require accepetance and trust from those who control access to the people in need. As Medair CEO David Verboom explained in his online blog, sometimes that includes negotiations with sanctioned groups. Our work is driven exclusively by the needs of people in need and by humanitarian principles.

There have certainly been challenges over this past year, but we have been able to continue working and, in fact, have scaled up our response due to drastic increase in humanitarian needs of the communities we work in, and enabled by the increased interest of many donors and the dedication of our team.

Mahmood and his family now have access to clean drinking water in Afghanistan

Mahmood and his neighbours were drinking from a stream also used by animals. Their children often became sick and although health officers had advised them not to drink the water, they had no alternative. Mahmood tells us that since Medair built this safe water point and brought water from a natural spring, his son Ahmed is no longer sick.

Since August, 2021 we have constructed 117 access points for clean water, including a solar-powered water point.

“This is a life-changing moment for the whole community,” said Sardar, a 70-year-old farmer living in one of the areas serviced by the new water station. “These mere words of gratitude are really not enough. We thank and pray for all of you for providing us and the generations to come access to clean drinking water.”

Since receiving regular supplies of the peanut-based nutritional supplement Plumpy ‘Nut, Sofeya’s health has steadily improved.

Sadia brought her youngest child, one-year-old Sofeya, to one of Medair’s nutrition clinics. “Our home was destroyed by conflict and since then, we have been displaced many times,” she told us. “We lost all our belongings and our livestock.”

“When I brought my child to the clinic, the Medair medical staff gave me rations,” Sadia recalls. “Without these rations, I’m sure she would not have recovered. We already lost a child because no such assistance was available at the time. There are many families like ours in this community who are unable to feed their children properly. Without the nutrition assistance from Medair, many other children would have died of malnutrition.”

Since August, 2021 Medair has been operating 29 mobile nutrition clinics. We are continuing to add new teams, and will soon have 45 locations. In just eight months, nearly 40,000 women and children were screened for malnutrition.

Household incomes in Afghanistan are shrinking drastically and prices continue to increase. According to the World Food Programme, the June 2022 cost of a basic food basket is 54% higher than at the same time in 2021. Prices increased by 6% in June alone.

Khalida is a single mother of four children, all under the age of 15. She was facing desperate times and even her family was unable to help. Khalida was forced to make an excruciating decision, and agree to take her 10-year-old son out of school so he could take on a job as a shepherd. With a monthly income of just 1,500 AFA, or around $16 dollars, it was far from enough to cover all their needs. Khalida told us that the family often went to bed with empty stomachs.

“I tried all options available to find a job so I could feed my family,” said Khalida. “But there’s was no work opportunity for me, despite all my efforts. And with most people in the country, including my relatives, also going through such hard times, no one could help me.”

Because of the high needs in the area, Khalida’s community has received cash assistance from Medair. For a limited time, she received a monthly transfer of 8,100 AFA (or $92).

“This really restored a sense of hope that I could finally take care of our urgent needs. I went to the market very happy and bought enough food to feed my family for weeks to come. In these desperate times, I believe you are an angel sent from the sky to help save my children’s lives and my own.”

Since August 2021, more than 56,000 people received cash assistance to meet their basic needs for food, health care and medicines.

Ben Reynolds, Country Director in Afghanistan, summed up this past year.

“At the one-year anniversary of the change in government, Medair’s scale up in Afghanistan is in full flow, with increased programming in all three bases, meeting critical emergency needs which are constantly developing, and reaching some populations who haven’t received humanitarian assistance in over 20 years.”

Since August, 2021 we have continued providing health services to people, including medical treatment, health support for pregnant women, and basic psychosocial support. In just eight months, nearly 12,000 people visited Medair-supported clinics.

Of course, the challenges of providing humanitarian in Afghanistan remain, and of urgent concern is the alarming level of hunger. According to the World Food Programme, 92% of people face insufficient food consumption – nearly the entire country is going to bed hungry. More than half of the population are taking drastic measures – selling possessions or livestock, limiting portions to feed only children, or accumulating large amounts of debt. You can support our work in Afghanistan by donating here.