From the Field

Afghanistan crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Learn more about Afghanistan, where conflict, drought, displacement, and COVID-19 have created extreme conditions for children and families.

Decades of conflict, chronic poverty, recurrent natural disasters, and the impact of COVID-19 have deepened the humanitarian crisis facing children and families in Afghanistan.

This dire situation has led to a hunger crisis, mass child starvation, a near-collapse of the health system, and the destruction of family livelihoods. An estimated 18.4 million men, women, and children are in need of life-saving aid.

Facing a hunger crisis, at least 1 million children are on the brink of starvation. More than half of Afghanistan’s population lives below the poverty line, and food insecurity is on the rise, especially as 40% of crops have been lost due to drought in the second massive water shortage in three years.

“Afghan children dream to be educated and enjoy fullness of life. They deserve nothing less,” said Edgar Sandoval Sr., president and CEO of World Vision U.S. “We must act together now to prevent an unprecedented humanitarian disaster and to support the children of Afghanistan and their families in the coming weeks and months.”

World Vision has been providing children and their families with food, healthcare, and access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation — and we’re committed to staying and delivering life-saving aid to children, as we have in Afghanistan for 20 years.

Learn more about Afghanistan, where conflict, drought, displacement, and COVID-19 have created extreme conditions for children and families.
In Afghanistan, children and their families face extreme conditions caused by ongoing conflict, drought, displacement, and COVID-19. (©2014 World Vision)

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 happening in Afghanistan?

This landlocked country has been mired in conflict, drought, extreme poverty, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Nearly 9.5 million people are currently facing high levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan.
  • At least 1 million children are on the brink of starvation.
  • Some 400,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the beginning of 2021.
  • At least 36% of Afghan children suffer from stunting — being small for their age — a common and largely irreversible effect of malnutrition.

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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. Nearly 9.5 million people in the south-central Asian country are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity. An estimated 2.7 million people are facing starvation.

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How many Afghans are forcibly displaced?

About 2.6 million people from Afghanistan are refugees, representing one of the largest long-term refugee situations in the world. According to the U.N. refugee agency, some 400,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of 2021, adding to the 2.9 million Afghans already displaced across the country at the end of 2020.

Neighboring Pakistan hosts nearly 1.4 million people, including some second- or third-generation Afghan refugees who have never lived in their home country.

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Why is Afghanistan facing a hunger crisis?

Recurrent drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and years of violence have intensified levels of food insecurity. Malnutrition is a big problem in Afghanistan because of lack of access to food, poor childcare and feeding practices, and illness. They’re also facing a water crisis, meaning communities are unable to get enough water for livestock, agriculture, as well as for drinking and hygiene.

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What’s the situation facing Afghan children?

World Vision is deeply concerned about the situation of children, their needs and their rights. Today, about 10 million children need life-saving aid, according to the U.N. 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.

The killing and maiming of Afghan children have been verified, and the pandemic has heightened kids’ vulnerability to abduction, recruitment, and sexual violence, according to a United Nations 2021 report on children and armed conflict.

“This is a child protection crisis in a country that is already one of the worst places on earth to be a child,” UNICEF Afghanistan representative Hervé Ludovic De Lys said during an August 30, 2021, briefing. “Against a backdrop of conflict and insecurity, children are living in communities that are running out of water because of the drought.”

Without peace and humanitarian access, Afghanistan’s children are at significant risk of violence, neglect, abuse, exploitation, starvation, and worsening malnutrition. Situations like child marriage, child labor, family separation, and mass displacements in search of food are all likely to worsen.

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How has COVID-19 affected people in Afghanistan?

The COVID-19 pandemic has globally increased the vulnerabilities of children, including by limiting their access to education, health and social services, child protection activities, and safe spaces. In a country with a population of close to 40 million, more than 3.1 million vaccine doses have been given and at least 155,287 COVID-19 cases and 7,212 deaths have been reported. With the spread of delta variant and another harsh winter looming, Afghans are at greater risk.

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What’s happening with the drought in Afghanistan?

Nearly 9.5 million people are facing a dire food crisis, exacerbated by drought and soaring food prices. Since October 2020, Afghanistan has been experiencing below-normal rainfall — the lowest in 40 years — that has added to the severity of the country’s drought.

In Badghis Province, one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, severe drought conditions have led to crop 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.

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

World Vision is committed to stay in Afghanistan, aiming to help 1 million people over the coming months through proven programs in areas such as food and nutrition assistance, healthcare, child protection, and access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.

We’re currently serving children and families in over 2,000 villages throughout Afghanistan. In 2020 alone we:

  • Reached 642,761 people, including 299,605 children, through development programs including health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and education
  • Responded to the humanitarian emergency needs of 286,951 people, including 171,574 children

And as of August 2021, we’ve helped protect 663,672 people, including 314,492 children, through our COVID-19 response — scaling prevention measures to slow the spread of the virus, supporting health workers, and more.

By partnering with local community leaders in Afghanistan for many years, we’ve been able to respond to crises and equip them to create positive sustainable change in their communities.

We’ve trained hundreds of community health workers to distribute information and promote positive change in areas that impact health, such as proper nutrition, access to clean water, the importance of latrines, and more.

World Vision has also trained more than 300 midwives to care for pregnant women and their children before, during, and after birth. Access to skilled birth attendants is helping to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in western Afghanistan.

World Vision will be restarting life-saving food assistance and mobile health and nutrition projects as we’re able to gain access to areas with the greatest need. We currently have six operational mobile clinics focused on feeding malnourished children and responding to urgent health concerns.

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How can I help Afghan children and their families?

You can help the people of Afghanistan by using your gifts for their benefit.

  • Raise your voice: Join us in calling Congress to help vulnerable, displaced Afghan families with basic needs and services through organizations who are 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.

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