Aman Palace, Kabul. Formerly the Ministry of Defence, the building was badly damaged in shelling and mortar fire in the Mujahideen era. It has been demined and internally displaced people now live in the ruins.
Aman Palace, Kabul. Formerly the Ministry of Defence, the building was badly damaged in shelling and mortar fire in the Mujahideen era. It has been demined and internally displaced people now live in the ruins.

Afghanistan: What do we know so far?

Situation on the ground

As the Taliban claims Afghanistan’s independence, reports continue that nationals and Afghans are struggling to reach Kabul airport. At present, the US military is still planning a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by 31 August, leaving many countries scrambling to evacuate people and NGOs struggling to get vulnerable members of staff out whilst also continuing to deliver humanitarian aid safely.

According to the UN, 18 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Almost 550,000 Afghans have been displaced so far this year. Almost 60% of Afghans who have been forced to leave their homes this year are children.

The G7 has called for safe passage to be guaranteed for all of those who wish to transit to the airport. G7 ministers called for an international response and “intensive engagement” with both Afghan and international partners.

G7 Ministers have also affirmed their commitment to the urgent need for the cessation of violence, respect for human rights including for women, children and minorities, inclusive negotiations about the future of Afghanistan, and the need for all parties to respect international humanitarian law, in particular in relation to humanitarian and medical personnel, interpreters and other international service providers.

Critically, the UN is warning that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN’s records began.

What is the UK doing?

According to the government, 9,000 British nationals, and Afghans who had worked for the British, have been evacuated from Kabul since 15 August. Last week, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary announced a plan to provide a bespoke asylum offer to settle 20,000 Afghan refugees over 5 years, 5,000 people in the first year.

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The government has stated that it will increase aid in response to the crisis in Afghanistan to £286 million ($394 million), however it’s unclear exactly how the money will be spent and the amount committed falls short of the £292 million allocated in 2019. The Prime Minister has also promised “to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever” to protect human rights in the country.

ARAP: UK support to resettle Afghan nationals

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) was launched on 1 April 2021. Under the policy, any current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life are offered priority relocation to the UK regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served.

This is a new scheme, separate of existing ones. The Ex-Gratia Scheme (EGS) will remain open until it closes in November 2022. Those who have applied and are eligible for the EGS will be relocated through the EGS. The Intimidation Policy will close as it will be replaced by the ARAP.

More information about ARAP, including how to apply, can be found here.

Transferring money to Afghanistan

The Charity Commission’s Compliance Toolkit has dedicated guidance on moving funds. If NGOs need to consider moving funds outside of the regulated financial sector, this sets out the potential risks involved and controls required including the money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with Informal Value Transfer Systems such as hawala. Charity trustees must be able to show that using methods outside of the regulated financial sector is a reasonable decision in the circumstances and the risks have been appropriately managed. The guidance also provides practical tools such as risk management and financial controls checklists when using intermediaries. The toolkit is available here.

Urgent questions that remain unanswered

At present we are not sure whether the increased aid for Afghanistan will be in addition to the current aid budget or come out of other projects.

We also do not know how long the UK will continue their evacuations will continue, with the media reporting that evacuations may end imminently.

We are also unsure of how the safety of humanitarian and development workers will be secured in the coming days, weeks and months ahead, as well as how those who are looking to leave will be able to do so once the air evacuations from Kabul airport come to an end.

What are NGOs on the ground calling for?

CARE: CARE are deeply concerned for women and other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan as the triple nexus intensifies.

“…It is imperative that humanitarian agencies are afforded safe, unfettered access to affected communities to continue providing much-needed assistance. Vulnerable groups in Afghanistan need our support at this critical time.”

Afghanaid: Calls for urgent support for those families whose lives have been affected. This includes the continued and increased support of the refugee exodus and ensuring that the funding flows of aid resume and increase, so that NGOs can continue important development work, as well as delivering the immediate humanitarian assistance that is so urgently needed.

Muslim Hands: “…Years of war have crippled Afghanistan, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. With no adequate infrastructure, another generation will be impacted by a lack of opportunity if we don’t intervene. Women and children are facing the brunt of this humanitarian crisis and it is unacceptable if we turn a blind eye in their time of need” – Irfan Khan, Director Humanitarian and International Partnerships.

Save the Children: “In order to resume our activities, we urge all parties to the conflict to put an end to the violence, protect humanitarian access and uphold international humanitarian law. Afghan children deserve a future free violence and a home protected from conflict” – Christopher Nyamandi, Country Director of Save the Children Afghanistan.

Christian Aid: “We urge the UK Government to take action on four key areas; to work closely with the United Nations and wider donor community, to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided to those most in need in the face of a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis, to immediately suspend all deportations from the UK of Afghan asylum seekers and refugees and open safe and legal routes for those fearing persecution.”

Islamic Relief Worldwide: “Due to the escalation, many people are arriving in Kabul and other large cities to escape the conflict. Approximately 10,350 internally displaced people (IDPs) have arrived in Kabul since the beginning of July, with thousands more reported to be displaced.

“Further assessments continue in regions such as Nangarhar where 28,000 people from Kunar have reportedly been displaced.

“The conflict builds on an already insecure situation in Afghanistan, which — without humanitarian intervention — could fall into famine. Droughts have left at least 13 million people facing a food crisis and up to 9.5 million potentially experiencing food insecurity.”

Concern: Funding to meet the rising humanitarian needs is seriously inadequate. The original Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the country is only 38% funded, leaving a shortfall in funding of $793 million. It is inevitable that funding estimates will need to be revised upward, as the scale of need becomes clearer. It is impossible for the humanitarian community to provide the most basic level of assistance without an urgent increase in flexible and unrestricted funding to meet the increasing needs in a complex and rapidly changing context.

StreetChild: “At Street Child, we certainly urge all governments to be as generous as possible in facilitating the immediate departure by air of Afghans who want to leave for their own safety – particularly those with specific fears” – Tom Dannatt, the founder of Street Child

International Rescue Committee (IRC): “There is a double crisis facing Afghanistan right now: a visible crisis, of thousands of people trying to leave the country from Kabul. And an invisible crisis of millions of people across the country dependent on humanitarian aid, who cannot leave the country.

“The number of people internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan has risen by 53% since the start of August, jumping from 360,000 to 550,000 in just two weeks. Men, women and children are among those forced to abandon their homes and seek safety as violence throughout the country has dramatically increased. It is absolutely vital that the international community recognises the urgent need to deliver aid to those who need it most.”

Concilliation Resources

Developments in #Afghanistan are highly concerning. The first steps must be to:
– end all violence
– protect all Afghans from harm, including women and girls
– ensure respect for human rights
– guarantee delivery of humanitarian aid
– create conditions for inclusive dialogue

— Conciliation Resources (@CRbuildpeace) August 17, 2021

Women for Women International: In a letter to the Prime Minister supported by more than 100 other signatories, they said “During the past decades, numerous female human rights activists have worked with the British government to advance gender equality, peace and security in Afghanistan. That participation didn’t come without a cost – something we all anticipated – or a high level of responsibility. We request the British government act urgently to protect those women now at risk of persecution and death due to this work. Their protection is essential if the sector is to continue its coordination with and support of the British government’s work globally on women, peace and security, in line with our shared commitment to continue engaging with women and girls’ networks in conflict-affected settings.”

Mercy Corps: “It is essential the U.S. government and all international donors maintain support for humanitarian organizations that are partnering with Afghans to provide urgently needed assistance. Afghans are in their most critical hour of need, and the world must not abandon them” – Ram Kishan, Mercy Corps’ Asia Deputy Regional Director.

HealthProm: “Our immediate priority is the safety of our local Afghan team and their families. We are taking every step to protect and support them. In 12 years of working with local partners in Afghanistan HP has helped reduce maternal and infant mortality and improve education for girls. These goals remain key for Afghanistan’s future. We are committed to finding ways to continue this work. We remain in solidarity with the Afghan people.” – Simon Ray, Chair of the Board of Healthprom.

NRC: “Eighty per cent of our projects are affected by the ongoing conflict, impacting of the delivery of critical aid to over 900,000 Afghans. But we are committed to stay and deliver. While Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for us to operate in, it is more important than ever that aid agencies can reach communities as the conflict escalates.” – Tracey Van Heerden, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s acting country director in Afghanistan.

How you can help if you don’t work in Afghanistan

All of the NGOs listed above are continuing to deliver aid on the ground, along with Cafod, Halo Trust, World Vision, Brooke, BRAC, Oxfam, Humanity and Inclusion, Zahra Trust, Engineers Against Poverty, the British Red Cross and many others. If you would like to donate, petition your local MP, or tweet about their work, please click on the organisation’s link.