LAKEWOOD, Washington — Issues similar to internal government conflict, food and sanitation have exacerbated poverty in Afghanistan. The issues affecting the country have concerned the global community, pushing multiple organizations to provide foreign aid to reduce Afghan poverty in the country. The International Medical Corps (IMC) reported that 18 million Afghans, 10 million of whom are children, rely on humanitarian aid to survive.
Soldiers from countries like the U.S. have witnessed firsthand the hardships that face Afghan citizens. The Borgen Project spoke with Nathanael Allcock, a United States Army veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Allcock stated that “One-hundred percent of the time I left the base in Kandahar, Afghanistan I was exposed to poverty.” Poverty in Afghanistan has weakened medical services, affected the education of Afghan students and has made about one-third of the Afghan population food insecure. In the past decades, multiple organizations have come forward to provide foreign aid to support the country, making significant impacts that help Afghan citizens flourish. The International Medical Corps, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) are some examples of global foreign aid helping Afghan poverty.
International Medical Corps (IMC)
The International Medical Corps (IMC) has provided aid to Afghanistan since its creation in 1984 during the Soviet occupation of the country. Established by volunteer doctors and nurses, IMC has responded to Afghan poverty in considerable measures. IMC has reported that life expectancy in Afghanistan averages 52 years for men and 55 years for women. Estimates have determined that Infant mortality rates in the country are at 106.75 deaths per 1,000 live births. In conjunction with internal conflict within Afghanistan, a poor health system leaves Afghan citizens without proper medical needs. At two physicians per 10,000 with an additional five nurses and midwives per 10,000, IMC has taken steps to implement foreign aid to reduce Afghan poverty and respond to medical needs.
In 2020, IMC provided 39,793 medical and consultation services to 5,873 Afghan citizens affected by internal conflict. Along with primary health care, IMC has opened services to trauma care, maternal care, mental health care and more. IMC has also taken measures in building Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs in Afghanistan. Estimates have stated that nearly 25% of the population has sanitation facilities available. An estimated 3.5 million citizens in the country have experienced displacement from their homes as a result of internal conflict. In 2021, reports determined that 550,000 more Afghan citizens had undergone displacement from their homes, removing long-term access to sanitation facilities and safe clean water. Sergeant Allcock told The Borgen Project that Afghan citizens had “little to no electrical power, no grocery stores and digging wells for drinking water” and that “living conditions [were]sub par at best.”
Implementing the WASH programs, IMC provided citizens with clean drinking water, mobilized community-led total sanitation that focuses on improving behavior changes regarding sanitation and educated families on the risks of unhygienic practices.
The World Health Organization (WHO)
Along with support from IMC, another organization, the World Health Organization (WHO) has used its means of foreign aid to help Afghan poverty by airdropping medicine and health supplies to support Afghan health in August 2021. WHO has reported that 12.5 metric tons (mt) of supplies landed in the country and will go to health facilities across 29 provinces. The supplies consist of trauma and health kits that can cover the basic needs of 200,000 people. It will also provide 3,500 surgical procedures and treat 6,500 trauma patients.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided recent foreign aid helping Afghan poverty through building support through Afghan schools. In January and February 2022, UNICEF distributed emergency cash support to public Afghan educators.
This aid will support about 194,000 public educators throughout the country to strengthen the means for education for millions of children. UNICEF has determined that more foreign aid is necessary for building the foundation for more substantial education. Along with the emergency cash support, UNICEF has also supported community-based education and has distributed learning materials and training to teachers.
UNICEF has emphasized the dangers that children have exposure to in the country, noting that the economy, education systems and social services are struggling to survive and support its citizens. Supporting one aspect of Afghanistan’s community foundation including education may allow Afghan children a chance at higher education and more substantial careers. Along with these opportunities, UNICEF has ramped up its foreign aid through the organization’s child protection response. UNICEF is responding to children who have experienced conflict and displacement through immediate life-saving services and psychological support to promote mental health and wellbeing.
The World Food Program (WFP)
Food assistance is an example of recent foreign aid helping Afghan poverty from the World Food Program (WFP). In 2021, the WFP provided food assistance to 15 million Afghan citizens. In November 2021, the WFP distributed over 50,000 mt of food to 7 million people. Throughout 2021, WFP provided more than 200,000 mt of food to Afghans.
Despite the successes in foreign aid to reduce Afghan poverty, WFP has noted that more aid is necessafry and it has been urging for more global aid. Operations are building to assist more than 23 million people struggling with severe hunger as internal conflicts and inflation has made providing food more difficult for Afghan citizens.
Sergeant Allcock explained to The Borgen Project just how prominent hunger is in the country, stating that “Soldiers gave when they were able to. MRE’s, candy bars and more. Soldiers were bombarded by Afghan citizens who struggled to find means for food.”
The IMC, UNICEF, WFP and WHO have made significant impacts in foreign aid to reduce Afghan poverty which may inspire other organizations to also incorporate additional assistance to the country. Afghanistan’s citizens may find relief from the foreign aid currently being provided, and numbers of poverty and hunger may see reductions if aid continues to strengthen.
– Michelanie Allcock