Anyone taking in the news this week may be wondering how to help Afghanistan right now. The country, which was already rife with conflict and poverty and in dire need of humanitarian aid, is in crisis as the Taliban continues its violent takeover, with ongoing fighting reported in 33 of the country's 34 provinces, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
As violence escalates, the UNHCR says Afghanistan is expected to see the highest number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since record-keeping began in 2009. Many more people are being internally displaced or forced to flee the country: Almost 400,000 people have been forced from their homes in 2021, on top of the 2.9 million Afghans already displaced in 2020, according to the UNHCR.
The crisis has heightened the urgent need for humanitarian aid—already grave after a year marked by drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing conflict—such as shelter and hunger relief. UNICEF estimates that half of the country's population (over 18 million people, including 10 million kids) need humanitarian aid. According to the UN's World Food Program (WFP), one in three people in the country are going hungry, including two million children who are severely hungry.
If you are feeling distraught and helpless, that's OK. But there are meaningful and tangible ways to help the Afghan people, including charitable giving, volunteering, and taking political action. Here are a few places to start when it comes to how to help Afghanistan.
The most efficient, responsive way to support people directly affected in a crisis like this is by putting money into the hands of the people already doing good work on the ground. We've compiled a list of organizations currently raising funds to provide humanitarian aid for Afghans affected by the crisis.
Many of the organizations here, where noted, have been vetted by non-profit watchdog organization Charity Navigator for transparency, accountability, and efficiency. However, since some of the most effective efforts in humanitarian crises may be smaller grassroots organizations that are not registered as 501(c)(3) organizations (an often costly legal process), we have also included some groups not evaluated by third parties. (And, of course, there are countless more excellent organizations of all kinds not on this list.) Whenever you're giving money to a cause, it's a good idea to do your own research to help ensure your donation will be used as intended.
The IRC (rated three out of four stars on Charity Navigator), which has been in Afghanistan since 1988, is seeking to raise $10 million “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.” For instance, they are providing basic necessities like shelter and clean water to families forced to leave their homes.
Donations to this UN Crisis Relief initiative go into a funding pool, managed by local UN leadership in Afghanistan, that serves as a “rapid and flexible response mechanism” as the situation evolves. The fund makes the money “directly and immediately available" to local partner organizations responding to the crisis with humanitarian aid, like food and water, on the front lines.
This international nonprofit (four stars on Charity Navigator) helps keep children living in poverty in school. Since schools have closed and violence escalated in the Balkh province where the Child Foundation does much of its work, the organization is refocusing its efforts on direct aid for students and families in need with a dedicated Afghanistan Crisis Fund for Emergency Assistance. According to their site, they have already sent $15,000 to 300 families in dire need so they can buy groceries.
This international nonprofit organization (four stars on Charity Navigator), which helps connect donors to locally led nonprofits providing aid around the world, recently set up an Afghanistan Emergency Fund. They aim to raise $3 million in donations for “vetted organizations that are local to impacted areas." The money will go towards emergency relief for people in need, support for local activists and journalists, and meeting “other emerging needs during this rapidly changing situation,” according to GlobalGiving.
This organization provides financial, social, caregiving, and educational support to Afghan children living with disabilities, many of whom are orphaned or abandoned. The nonprofit is currently raising money to give emergency support to families living in makeshift camps in the Kabul area after being forced to flee their homes, as well as children without families. To avoid redundant efforts, volunteers and staff on the ground will collaborate with other groups providing relief.
The U.S. branch (three stars on Charity Navigator) of international aid and development nonprofit Islamic Relief has staff on the ground helping displaced families in the Kabul, Balkh, Herat, and Nangarhar provinces. Donations to their Afghanistan emergency fund will go towards essentials like food, water storage, hygiene kits, cooking utensils, solar lamps, towels, soap, and family-sized emergency tents.
This nonprofit's (three stars on Charity Navigator) mission is to socially and economically empower women survivors of war and conflict in eight countries. Their Afghanistan emergency fund will help provide emergency aid (such as hygiene kits) to Afghan women during a time of violence and “grave uncertainty."
Afghan refugees let into the U.S. will be coming into the Washington, D.C.; Houston and Fort Worth, Texas; and Seattle/Tacoma, Washington, areas, as NPR reports. National and local organizations that help resettle refugees need help with the logistics and funds that this crucial work entails. You can Google and call or email refugee service organizations in your region to see what kind of assistance they most need right now. Here are some places to start.
This nonprofit (four stars on Charity Navigator) is enlisting volunteers in all four regions to assist with things like picking people up at the airport, setting up apartments, and providing meals. Folks can sign up with regional offices to help in their area where refugees are currently arriving. You can also join a general volunteering stand-by list in other regions to help prepare for resettling refugees that may end up there.
Sign up to volunteer here or donate here.
This organization supports refugees and immigrants in the D.C./Maryland area by providing housing, household necessities, employment assistance, and more. They are asking for help supporting Afghan refugees through financial support and donations via an Amazon wishlist. They also need volunteers to help with things like moving furniture and setting up apartments (if you are local) and providing mentorship (local or via Zoom).
Sign up to volunteer here, donate here, or buy necessities from their Amazon wishlist here.
Church World Service (four stars on Charity Navigator) has 23 refugee and immigration offices in 17 states that help new arrivals get settled, become a part of the local community, and find work. You can give the organization monetary support, or volunteer your resources and time to help sponsor and resettle families locally. Volunteers may do things like make culturally appropriate welcome meals, provide English tutoring, take people to medical appointments, and more.
Donate or sign up to volunteer here.
Since 2001, at least 53 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, including 27 murders. Right now, reporters and photographers documenting what's happening on the ground for the rest of the world are at very high risk. A number of organizations dedicated to protecting journalists and freedom of the press are raising money to support journalists in Afghanistan.
The IWMF (four stars on Charity Navigator) is asking for help to support the work and defend the lives of vulnerable media workers in Afghanistan right now. “If we do not support these women and journalists in every way possible in this moment, we are at risk of having journalism diminish and disappear from Afghanistan,” the IWMF says. They have set up an emergency fund to direct donations toward women journalists in Afghanistan who need help staying safe in the country or getting out.
This Kabul-based nonprofit, dedicated to advancing the safety and rights of reporters, is seeking funds to provide aid to local journalists and their families (including shelter, safe houses, food, clothing) and support the ongoing work of independent media outlets in Afghanistan. Reporters Without Borders (four stars on Charity Navigator), which defends freedom of the press worldwide, names the AJSC as an organization they plan to direct aid toward in their plan to protect Afghan journalism.
Donate here (through AJSC's Denmark-based partner organization International Media Support).
Refugee organizations like the IRC and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) are calling on the White House and State Department to prioritize expanding pathways to safety here in the U.S.—bureaucratic pathways that are often narrow, slow, and difficult to navigate.
For example, the New York Times reports that thousands of eligible people have been left behind in Afghanistan due to processing backlogs on special visas for Afghans who have worked with or supported the U.S. (such as translators or interpreters) and some of their family members. There are at least 18,000 people with special visa applications pending, the Times reports. While the administration has taken steps (including authorizing 8,000 more of these special visas and creating a new refugee designation for Afghans who have helped the U.S. but don't qualify for the special visa), advocates like the IRC are asking them to further expedite and expand these programs. The IRC is also asking the administration to significantly bolster diplomatic pathways and evacuation assistance to Afghans.
Tell your government you think accelerating visa processing and evacuation support is important by sending a pre-written letter to the White House on behalf of the IRC, here.
Refugees International (four stars on Charity Navigator) is similarly calling on the administration to support Afghan refugees and displaced peoples through immediate diplomatic and humanitarian actions. The organization is pushing President Biden to reinvigorate and expand the country's refugee resettlement program, which suffered under Trump and the pandemic, and accept 125,000 refugees over the next year. (Although the 2021 refugee cap is 62,500, the country is on track to resettle fewer than 10,000 this year, according to Business Insider—including fewer than 500 Afghans, as of August 16.)
The number of refugees the U.S. can resettle depends on the budget for the next fiscal year, which is set in September. So Refugees International is encouraging people to contact their state and local representatives and ask them to sign a collective letter from elected officials urging Biden to expand the country's refugee resettlement program.
Call, write to, or tweet at your elected officials using the contact information, email template, tweet templates, and phone script here.
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