From the Field

Afghanistan crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Children and families in Afghanistan are facing a growing humanitarian crisis, the result of decades of conflict, chronic poverty, and recurrent natural disasters. The dire situation includes a hunger crisis, a near-collapse of the health system, devastation to schools, and the destruction of family livelihoods.

In addition to the worsening humanitarian conditions, the de facto authorities’ decision to ban women from working for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is the latest in a list of examples of the rights of women being rolled back drastically since the transition of governance in Afghanistan in August 2021.

On December 25, 2022, World Vision made the difficult decision to suspend all its operations in Afghanistan immediately following the announcement of the ban. While most of our operations remain on hold, our health and nutrition programs have resumed in the country, as female aid workers have been permitted to work in these sectors and their safety has been assured.

We are very concerned for our female staff and the mental health of women and girls in Afghanistan as their opportunities are restricted.

We remain firmly committed to the children and families of Afghanistan. We are hopeful that the de facto authorities will reverse their position, which will allow us to restart the rest of our vital, life-saving work in the country.

FAQs: What you need to know about the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis

Explore facts and frequently asked questions about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and learn how to help Afghan children and their families.

Fast facts: What’s the current situation in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is now facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The landlocked country has been mired in conflict, drought, extreme poverty, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • An estimated 28.3 million people — two thirds of the Afghan population — will need humanitarian aid and protection in 2023.
  • Some 20 million people are expected to face high and critical levels of acute food insecurity in 2023, with 6 million in emergency levels (one step away from famine) — one of the highest figures in the world.
  • At the end of 2022, 875,000 children under 5 were in need of life-saving treatment for severe wasting, the most visible and potentially life-threatening form of malnutrition.
  • Some 3.4 million people were displaced within the country in 2022.
  • More than half of Afghanistan’s population lives below the poverty line.
  • Food insecurity is on the rise, as crops have been lost due to drought and food costs have spiked in part because of the war in Ukraine.


What’s causing the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis?

Decades of conflict, displacement, poverty, and extreme weather have ravaged Afghanistan. Compounding the extreme conditions is a hunger crisis.


How many Afghans are forcibly displaced?

About 2.1 million people from Afghanistan are refugees and asylum-seekers living in neighboring countries, representing one of the largest long-term refugee situations in the world. According to the UNHCR, more than 770,000 Afghans were forced to flee their homes due to increasing violence and unrest in 2021.

Neighboring Pakistan hosts nearly 1.2 million Afghan refugees, including some second- and third-generation Afghans who have never lived in their home country.


A woman wearing a dark veil consoles a sick and crying child inside a mud house in Afghanistan.
Severe child malnutrition is on the rise in Afghanistan. World Vision is committed to continue delivering life-saving aid to children and families in Afghanistan, as we have for 20 years, providing food, healthcare, and hygiene support, and helping communities gain access to clean water and sanitation. (©2022 World Vision)

Why is Afghanistan facing a hunger crisis?

Recurrent drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and years of conflict have all contributed to high levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan. Soaring food costs driven by the war in Ukraine have compounded the crisis. Malnutrition in children is exacerbated by poor childcare and feeding practices and by the spread of illnesses such as acute watery diarrhea. Afghans are also facing a water crisis, meaning communities are unable to get enough water for livestock and agriculture (as well as for drinking and hygiene).


How have Afghan children been affected?

World Vision cares deeply about the needs and rights of children in Afghanistan, and we’re very concerned about their situation. Today, a projected 15.3 million children need life-saving aid in Afghanistan, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF). And 36% of Afghan children suffer from stunting — being small for their age — a common and largely irreversible effect of malnutrition. Drought and displacement caused by recent conflict and the secondary effects of COVID-19 have made conditions worse.

Without peace and humanitarian access, Afghanistan’s children are at significant risk of violence, neglect, abuse, exploitation, starvation, and worsening malnutrition. Situations like child marriagechild labor, family separation, and mass displacements — as families leave in search of food — are all likely to worsen. Already, parents in the most desperate situations are making the unimaginable decision to sell one daughter for dowry money so they can buy food for all their children.


Maryam, seen from the nose down, sits close to her father, a microphone clipped to his shirt. His face is not shown.
Faced with unemployment, mounting debt, and chronic poverty in Afghanistan, parents of 7-year-old Maryam* made the impossible choice to sell their daughter for her dowry (the equivalent of $2,250) so they could buy food for their children. Prolonged drought had driven Maryam’s family from their farm in Badghis province to a displacement camp in Herat, more than 100 miles away. Her father (sitting close to Maryam in this photo) forfeited the farm to pay off one debt but continued to borrow food supplies, incurring more debt with another shop owner, who agreed to lend them money in exchange for their daughter. They’re now praying they can pay the money back; otherwise, they must give Maryam to him as soon as she turns 13. *Name changed to protect identity. (©2022 World Vision)

How is the crisis impacting Afghan girls and women?

Girls and women in Afghanistan have suffered significant setbacks.

  • On March 23, 2022, Afghanistan’s de facto government reversed its initial promise to allow girls beyond sixth grade to attend school. The reversal shattered the hopes of secondary school-aged girls who were turned away from classrooms.
  • On December 20, 2022, the Taliban banned female students from attending universities in Afghanistan.
  • On December 24, 2022, de facto authorities ruled that all women were banned from working for NGOs.

The directive to ban women from working for NGOs makes it challenging for us to continue saving lives without violating the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality. With the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan worsening, the aid response needs to be doubled, not halved by restricting female staff.

World Vision is also deeply concerned by the limitations placed on girls’ and women’s access to education. Education is a fundamental right, including for adolescent girls and women. World Vision calls on the international community to make girls’ and women’s access to education a key priority in their engagement in Afghanistan. The safety and well-being of our staff and the people we serve is our priority.


An Afghan man rides away on a donkey as a second burro carries supplies in the hilly desert terrain.
Severe drought and the toll of decades-long conflict have driven Afghan families from their farming communities to cities like Herat, where they now face rising food insecurity, hunger, and economic distress. (©2021 World Vision)

What’s happening with the drought in Afghanistan?

Some 20 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity, exacerbated by drought and soaring food prices. Since October 2020, Afghanistan has been experiencing below-normal rainfall which has added to the severity of the country’s drought.

In Badghis Province, one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, severe drought conditions led to a failure of the 2020 winter harvest and also ravaged new crops that were planted for the 2021 spring growing season. It’s estimated that 60% of the livestock have died or been sold off at minimal value to provide for livelihoods and that 40% of wells have dried up because of water scarcity.


Treated for malnutrition, an Afghan child eats a packet of therapeutic food in Afghanistan.
A child eats a packet of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), a powerful, proven treatment for malnutrition, at a World Vision-supported health and nutrition program. (©2022 World Vision)

What’s World Vision doing to help Afghan children and their families?

In 2022, we reached 1,369,562 people — half of them children — through our interventions in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection, livelihood, and food security.

World Vision is continuing its life-saving food assistance and mobile health and nutrition projects as we’re able to gain access to areas with the greatest need.

As of September 2022, we have 59 operational mobile clinics focused on feeding malnourished children and responding to urgent health concerns. About 180,230 people received primary healthcare services, including more than 64,500 children under 5 who were screened for malnutrition.

To learn more about World Vision’s response, read “Afghanistan crisis: Hunger in the land.”


Where is World Vision working in Afghanistan?

We’re currently serving children and families in over 3,000 villages in the northwestern provinces of Badghis, Faryab, Ghor, and Herat. By partnering with local community leaders in Afghanistan for many years, we’ve been able to respond to crises and equip these communities to create positive sustainable change.


How can I help Afghan children and their families?

  • Raise your voice: Join us in calling on Congress to help vulnerable, displaced Afghan families with basic needs and services through organizations committed to staying in Afghanistan — like World Vision.
  • Give: Together, we can help Afghan children and families. World Vision is committed to serve the people of Afghanistan for the long term. Your donation will help deliver essential aid to vulnerable children and families.


Disaster Relief

View All Stories
An earthquake-damaged building in northwest Syria tilts to the side as people stand on piles of rubble.
From the Field

Earthquakes and tsunamis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

The Statue of Liberty stands tall amid choppy waters of the Hudson River, under an ominous gray sky.
From the Field

Hurricane Sandy: Facts, FAQs, and how to help


View All Stories
Women carry salvaged building supplies to rebuild their homes in cyclone-ravaged communities.
From the Field

Cyclone Phailin: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A man carries a large canvas bag with items salvaged from the rubble. A blue sky contrasts the devastation around him.
From the Field

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami: Facts, FAQs, how to help