Afghanistan – what can we do?
Afghanistan – what can we do?
This is the question so many of us are asking. Vanessa Baird has a few suggestions.
A child sits on the floor at Fiumicino Airport, as Afghan evacuees arrive in in Rome, Italy after their journey from Kabul.
August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
It’s easy to feel helpless when we watch, listen to, and read the news as Afghans try to leave their country, now in the power of the Taliban.
As time pass, the Taliban and the US administration seem to be an unholy alliance – the deadline for evacuating foreigners and those who helped international forces and agencies stays the same - 31 August.
Each day adds fear and suffering: mothers at Kabul airport hand babies over walls to foreign soldiers, youths fall to their deaths as they hold onto a departing plane, people are crushed in the crowd or shot by who knows who.
And then there are the interviews with Afghan women, strong but terrified by the idea of what life will be like after the foreigners go and the Taliban are free to do as they wish. It’s heartbreaking.
The scenes in Kabul are dramatic but only a part of the story of what’s going on in Afghanistan today. These are parts of a very big humanitarian crisis.
Since the start of 2021, over half a million people have left their homes as a result of conflict, and gone to communities that were already in crisis.
Now, hundreds of thousands of families have no home and no belongings, in dangerous situations across the country. Lack of food, lack of shelter, lack of healthcare are problems which go with many people.
So, what can we do, thousands of miles away?
There are things. We can open our wallets, our hearts, and our minds; and we can put political pressure to open our borders too.
We can support people in Afghanistan by giving money to charities and NGOs that can still (at the time of writing) work in the country. Afghan Aid (https://www.afghanaid.org.uk/) is active across Afghanistan, working hard, they say, to make sure their workers are safe but also supporting rural areas. For example, they are giving people kitchen kits so that without their homes they can cook and keep food.
‘Right now, we are preparing to deliver emergency help to families with lives destroyed by the conflict,’ says Afghan Aid. This also includes: emergency shelter and financial help for families; hygiene kits; solar- powered lamps, stoves and gas cylinders; emergency food parcels; blankets and the help families need to keep warm as winter is coming.
The situation of women and girls is very worrying. The charity Women for Women International (https://womenforwomen.org.uk/) works to find practical, safe, solutions so that we can help the people of Afghanistan who have suffered too much and who need peace’. They are also pressing for ‘multinational help to keep safe Afghan girls and women’.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent ) https://www.redcross.org.uk/ ) have worked in Afghanistan for 30 years and are not going to stop now. They are independent and work with all communities in all regions to help the most vulnerable.
The International Rescue Committee (https://www.redcross.org.uk/ ) works to give help quickly to people with lives destroyed by war. It is trying to raise $10 million to keep giving aid.
At the moment the international community is stopping its funding for Afghanistan, as it waits to see what is going to happen about human rights for girls and women, religious minorities, LGBTQI+ people, and all who have worked with international organisations.
But Afghanistan today needs aid more than ever before and will need foreign aid for many years. Also, the militaristic Taliban has very little experience of government or of providing the most basic services.
The British government has just reduced its international aid budget. There is now pressure for it to change that decision.
Refugees are welcome
With the crisis in Afghanistan there will be many more refugees and it’s very important that people who have worked to improve things in the country in the past twenty years continue their work.
Women’s organizations (including Women for Women International) are calling on the UK government to look after Afghan women who worked with NGOs and other organizations on British policy in Afghanistan.
And they are calling on the UK to ‘work closely with governments of neighbouring countries and other international powers to make sure women and their families at risk of danger can leave the country safely. This includes visas and help to leave for Afghan women at risk. The government must work hard to make sure the country’s land borders stay open for people to leave and for aid to come in. Britain agreed to provide refuge for only 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years. This is not enough.
Women’s groups are also calling on the government to keep the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy for Afghan people at risk because of their activism on women’s rights.
The British government is passing a new law, the Nationality and Borders Bill, that will make it almost impossible to claim asylum in the country. This is why organizations including Another Europe is Possible are calling a day of action on 4 September to demand that the government stops the Bill, and that the UK and Europe open up to refugees.
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(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)