The approaching winter will likely worsen the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, CARE officials warn, as dangerous conditions hamstring efforts to combat drought-driven food shortages.
"Attacks against U.N. staff and international aid workers have jumped sharply this year," says Lex Kassenberg, country director for CARE in Afghanistan. From January to September alone, 29 nongovernmental organizations workers were killed and 78 kidnapped. "Access to communities continues to be seriously hampered by widespread insecurity. More and more it's getting increasingly difficult to reach communities with the supplies they need."
Today roughly 8.4 million people, or one-fourth of the Afghan population, are considered food insecure. According to aid workers on the ground there, drought, insecurity and rising food prices in northern Afghanistan may drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes this winter.
In response, CARE has launched cash-for-work projects in the northern province of Balkh, providing income opportunities for an initial 2,400 families. CARE also will begin supplying seed, fertilizer and other agricultural materials to help farmers rebuild livelihoods lost. CARE's ongoing work in Afghanistan includes programs to educate girls in rural areas and make widows self-sufficient in Kabul.
Adds Kassenberg: "CARE applauds the U.N.'s decision to establish an independent office for coordinating humanitarian affairs in Afghanistan but calls on donors to make sure it receives adequate funding." Fighting along the Pakistani border has already complicated the situation, sending around 20,000 refugees into the country from Pakistan.
In July 2008, the Afghan government and the United Nations jointly appealed for $400 million in emergency aid. But, according to the Ministry of Rural Development, donors had funded only 35 percent by mid-September.
"We are entering a critical time of year," Kassenberg said. "Greater assistance depends on greater security. Without both, more Afghans are going to suffer."
About CARE: CARE fights root causes of poverty in the world's poorest communities. We place special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty.
Atlanta: Brian Feagans, CARE, firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.979.9453