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An Afghan woman and two young children sitting on the floor of a tent.
Growing violence

Afghanistan Crisis Watch

The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to Afghans who have endured four decades of violent conflict, as well as natural disasters and the spread of COVID-19.

Afghanistan crisis response

  • 18 million people in Afghanistan are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. More than 630,000 have been internally displaced this year alone.

  • Many Afghans have fled the country to build new lives in the United States and other countries around the world.

  • The International Rescue Committee is providing food, cash and other aid in Afghanistan itself and helping to resettle Afghans who have arrived in countries such as the U.S., Mexico and Uganda.

Learn more about our work
Country facts
  • Population: 38.9 million
  • People in need of humanitarian aid: 18.4 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 169 of 189
IRC response
  • Started work in Afghanistan: 1988

Afghanistan crisis briefing

Plagued by decades of violent conflict and natural disasters, Afghanistan has created one of the largest refugee populations in the world. The IRC provides humanitarian relief and recovery assistance to those affected by crises.

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What caused the current crisis in Afghanistan?

For years, Afghanistan has struggled with a declining economy and dwindling security.

Violent conflict continues to disrupt the lives of millions who increasingly must fend for themselves, while the COVID-19 pandemic, and drought and other climate-related disasters, also exacerbate needs for Afghans.

Afghanistan ranks second only to Yemen in the IRC's list of crises that are expected to deteriorate the most in 2021.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan?

Despite many years of aid, Afghanistan’s former government struggled to provide clean water, electricity, safe roads and education services for its people. As a result, 18.4 million Afghans need humanitarian support. 

Afghanistan is also embroiled in one of the most dangerous conflicts for civilians in the world: 2021 is on track to be the deadliest in over a decade—unless world leaders take action. International pressure is needed to protect civilians and enable aid workers to safely reach all those in need.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan reached record levels in the first half of 2021. Women and children are increasingly bearing the brunt of the conflict. Many are frequently subjected to violence, abuse and forced labour. And most lack access to health care, education and legal services.

Afghans who assisted the U.S. in their country, such as translators and interpreters, are also in great danger. The Biden Administration has been addressing a backlog in processing Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for these allies and looking at other paths for Afghans seeking safety—but these efforts benefit less than 1% of Afghans.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan have been internally displaced by conflict this year—but accurate and up-to-date figures are unavailable, because where fighting is most intense, humanitarian aid workers have also been forced to temporarily flee. 

Overall, more than 1 million Afghans remain displaced from their homes due to ongoing violence and frequent natural disasters.

The likelihood of extreme weather events in Afghanistan, which is already prone to natural disasters, is rising due to climate change. These disasters coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflict mean that more Afghans at home and abroad are being pushed into poverty, and increasing numbers of people are facing food insecurity. The number of people in need for 2021 nearly doubled compared to early 2020.

How does the IRC help in Afghanistan?

Our mission is to help people whose lives are shattered by conflict and disaster to recover and gain control of their futures.

The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, launching relief programmes for people displaced by the invasion of the Soviet Union. We continued to provide aid under Taliban rule and later expanded our community development projects. We now work with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. In recent years, the IRC has become one of the leaders in women’s protection and empowerment in the country.

As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict, natural disasters and COVID-19, the IRC:

  • provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities
  • supports over 100 health facilities, installs hand-washing stations in local communities, and provides information and training sessions about COVID-19.
  • provides safe learning spaces in rural areas
  • helps people find employment
  • works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects

How can I help people in Afghanistan?

Support the IRC's work

Donate now to help the IRC support children and families in Afghanistan and in crisis zones worldwide.

We are appealing for funds to ensure our teams can continue to deliver lifesaving aid in areas of conflict, as well as to provide emergency cash assistance and protection services for internally displaced people in Kabul.

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