Photos by Meer Abdullah/Afghan Red Crescent Society

 

War-torn Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the Asia-Pacific and the region’s most disaster prone. This is before considering the impact of COVID-19, which has rapidly spread across the country, further exposing Afghanistan’s fragile communities, already affected by multiple shocks.

This includes some 3.5 million people who have been displaced by conflict and disasters since 2012, many of whom have been unable to return home and now live in overcrowded sites where physical distancing is extremely difficult.3 In a dire account of how far COVID-19 has spread, a recent Ministry of Public Health study estimated that the virus is likely to have already infected nearly a third of the population, or around 10 million people.

 

In addition to the health challenges that COVID-19 presents, the additional socio-economic impact is devastating in a country where 54.5 percent of the population – or some 20 million people – are living below the poverty line. People like Abdul Haq, 65, who has had to leave his home and is currently living in a makeshift shelter in a camp in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan.

 

The UNDP has reported that COVID-19 could push the country’s poverty rate to nearly 70 per cent, placing intense pressure on people’s living conditions, emotional and physical reserves and overall resilience.

 

The Afghan Red Crescent Society is prioritising livelihoods and resilience of the most vulnerable people in the community, including people in urban hot spots, those under quarantine, internally displaced people and returning migrants as well as female-headed households and disabled people. 

 

As part of this priority, the Afghan Red Crescent Society is looking to reach more than 450,000 people with food and cash.

 

Cash assistance is quick, safe and reliable to deliver and is one of the most efficient ways to support vulnerable communities.

 

Particularly in the face of threats such as COVID-19, cash is one of the most efficient ways to support vulnerable communities. It provides immediate and flexible aid for families to prioritise their needs, and can be delivered quickly, safely and reliably to the people who need it. 

 

Cash support gives people such as Belgis, a mother of five, a sense of security, certainty and confidence that their children will not go hungry. 

 

Additionally, cash increases investments in local markets, supports communities and gives freedom and flexibility to families to meet their own individual needs.