WeWorld was present in Afghanistan from 2002 until 2017 to support the most vulnerable groups with projects aimed at strengthening civil society and human rights. After the events of August 2021 that saw the return of the Taliban to power, we resumed our activities to ensure support for rural communities and in particular for women heads of households and their sons and daughters at such a sensitive time, both in terms of people's rights and their access to basic needs.

The context

Over 40 years of protracted crisis and war, deterioration of the economy and disintegration of the rule of law have hit the Afghan population hard.

Today, millions of people in Afghanistan are affected by severe food insecurity, malnutrition, displacement and protection risks. At the same time, the country is also experiencing a severe economic recession - which has led to the loss of livelihoods for millions of Afghans - and is living in a political environment that precludes access to humanitarian aid - whose funding continues to be cut. In addition, a prolonged drought, amplified by climate change and combined with decades of mismanagement, has caused a widespread water crisis that has affected all 34 provinces and led to the loss of crops, livestock and facilitated outbreaks of infections and epidemics.

Putting further pressure on an already dire situation, the last quarter of 2023 saw the return of almost half a million Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, following a new policy of deporting undocumented foreigners. This crisis has strained border points and host communities, increasing the humanitarian needs of returnees and the wider population.

Paying the heaviest price are women, girls and children, who are denied their fundamental rights by the de facto authorities, strictly applying Sharia law, discriminating against them legally and socially, excluding them from higher education and often forcing them to leave their jobs. In particular, women head their own families and are forced to take care of their sons and daughters alone without having the right to receive an income or to leave home independently. These conditions put their access to food and that of the children who depend on them at risk. More than two million women in the country are widows as a result of the war. Many of them live in extreme poverty, without an education, forced into debt and, since the Taliban banned women from working or even leaving home without a male guardian, risking their lives every day.

Our response

We operate in Afghanistan with two offices, a coordination office in Kabul and a field office in Herat, intervening in food access, livelihoods provision and disaster risk reduction, as well as being active in the response to the catastrophic earthquakes of October 2023 in Herat province, north-east of the country.

Access to food and livelihoods

Our intervention supports single female heads of household and their daughters and sons living in the rural areas of Kushk Robat-e-Sangi district in Herat province to ensure their access to food. In this province, there are more than 10,000 women heads of households and more than 50,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance. Together with our long-standing local partner Rural Rehabilitation Association for Afghanistan (RRAA), we have been running a Cash-for-Food programme since the beginning of 2022, providing monetary assistance to the value of USD 80 per household per month for the purchase of food and basic necessities, and which has already supported over 500 households headed by single women.

We are currently implementing a new programme that will provide access to food to an additional 1,100 households and where 180 women will receive livelihood support in addition to cash for food through the distribution of 2 heads of cattle and technical training for their rearing. Finally, 50 women heads of households will be given the opportunity to have access to income-generating activities through counseling.

Disaster Risk Reduction

To improve awareness of the risks of natural disasters and climate change, we are carrying out awareness-raising campaigns for the population in 40 communities. In addition, through Cash4Work we are rehabilitating local activities to mitigate the impact of disasters (cleaning canals, repairing small irrigation infrastructures, building retaining walls along slopes and small works to preserve soil from erosion and improve rainwater infiltration). Finally, 500 farmers identified among the most vulnerable households are receiving support for agricultural production in drought conditions through technical training and the distribution of wheat seeds of resistant varieties and fertilisers, allowing them a production potential of 1,200 kg of wheat.

Response to the 2023 earthquakes

Following the strong earthquakes that struck Herat province in October 2023, we supported 310 families through the distribution of money for both food and the purchase of non-food items needed to adequately weather the cold period and winter. In the face of this emergency and others that severely affect the population of Afghanistan, our support continues, especially to those who are most vulnerable.