The situation unfolding in Afghanistan is heartbreaking, with hunger and malnutrition likely to skyrocket. Earlier in the century, Afghanistan had made strong progress on reducing hunger and malnutrition. Over the course of about a decade, hunger fell by half and child mortality fell by nearly one-third. Severe malnutrition (measured by rates of childhood wasting and stunting) was declining. Also since 2000, Afghan women and girls had gained somewhat more respect for their rights, with girls’ enrollment in secondary education rising from 6 percent to 39 percent. The Afghan Parliament was 27 percent female.
But Afghanistan, along with most other lower-income countries, saw increases in hunger during the last several years. The ongoing civil war, in which an estimated 50,000 civilians were killed plus tens of thousands of fighters on each side, was one major reason. Climate shocks and economic downturns from other causes also contributed. Even before the fall of the country to the Taliban, Afghanistan had the world’s second-highest number of people facing emergency levels of hunger. The country was entering its second drought in four years this summer, devastating crops.
Afghanistan would be considered likely to have high rates of hunger because at least two of the major causes of global hunger affect it—armed conflict and fragile governmental institutions. The hunger situation is now dire with the ongoing unrest and economic uncertainty. As food prices rise, people are increasingly unable to buy the basic foods they need. It is a hunger emergency. The Voice of America reports that 1 in every 3 Afghans, 14 million people, are unable to get enough food each day. Two million children need immediate lifesaving treatment for malnutrition.
More than 18 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, including 10 million children. They make up nearly half the population. According to UNICEF, half a million people are displaced within Afghanistan, a number that has doubled since May of this year. It is typical for conflict to produce large displaced populations.
The human rights and well-being of half the population—women—are of course important in and of themselves. Women’s empowerment has also been identified as a critical factor in ending hunger, meaning that the latter cannot happen until significant progress has been made on gender equity. At this juncture, the status of women in a new Taliban regime is uncertain but reports so far are discouraging.
In situations like these, it can be difficult to know what to do or how we can help. Here are three suggestions:
Pray. Bread for the World believes in the power of prayer. Use the prayer below or pray your own.
Learn. Educate yourself on what is happening, including the history of the country and U.S. involvement in it, and look for sources that amplify the voices of people who have historically been marginalized.
Do. Connect with organizations you know and trust to volunteer, donate, or otherwise contribute your time, money, and energy to supporting those who are affected.
Bread for the World’s ongoing work is even more important in times like these. To learn more about how our work on global food security, nutrition, and humanitarian aid is made for situations we are seeing today, go here.
God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
We see images on the news of people trying to get out of Afghanistan, and we wonder. What do they face if they stay? How will everyone find safety? We lament this situation and we long for your peace and your presence.
But we know this is not the whole picture. There are many women hiding in their homes. There are families displaced, struggling to find shelter. There are malnourished children and parents trying to find food to feed them.
And so we turn to you, O God.
Be present with those whose names we do not know, whose stories we have not heard, and whose struggles are too deep to understand. Holding them in the light, we trust that they are not alone.
Move in our time,
Make your abundance known so that all who are hungry in Afghanistan might find food.
Provide safe passage for those who are fleeing. Might they be welcomed with open arms and security along their journeys.
Work through the leaders of nations, leaders of communities to make your vision of peace, justice, compassion, goodness, and wholeness come to fruition.
Work through us, giving us the prayers to pray and the actions to take so that we might do what is right and good in your eyes.
We pray in Jesus’ name.