International Aid organizations play a big role in the peace building process in conflict zones. For many years, aid organizations have been acting with the goal to relieve the suffering, which in most cases is caused by the failure of the political process. The people of Afghanistan do not remember what it is like to live in peace. More than thirty years of war has caused widespread death and damage across Afghanistan. As of January 2015, according to the Watson Institute, over 26,000 civilians are estimated to have died because of the long-standing war and conflict. This cruel war has left thousands of widows, orphans, and disabled persons in a very dire situation; many are fleeing the country. Currently, more than 5 million Afghans are considered refugees, and there are an unknown number of internally displaced persons. Those Afghans who have remained in Afghanistan struggle daily to have basic essentials, such as food, shelter, water, and access to basic medical care. During recent years, many Aid Organizations have left Afghanistan due to various reasons, resulting in many Afghans losing their jobs, family income, and basic support. Those organizations that have remained active in helping the Afghan people have dedicated and experienced staff who are committed to long-term improvement. These organizations are facing an increasingly difficult set of challenges in their commitment to help.
Sources: UN, Acbar, Watson Institute.
Afghanistan is experiencing a humanitarian crises that is primarily the result of the continued deterioration of security and the economic vacuum created over the most recent years; highlighted by the pull out of support. Lack of financial resources is one of the biggest challenges that Aid organizations face in Afghanistan. Many donors are now avoiding or ignoring Afghanistan, and they tend to invest in other countries where it is safer to implement projects.
“I used to get rice, potatoes and some oil from Aid organizations before, but now most of them have left. Now I don’t have any income, I am left to survive”- says a 50 years old Saulah, mother of eight children.
The closing of so many programs has contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the increase of the unemployment rate in the country. This is a direct result of the lack of a sustainable economy created during the years of short-term economic development programs. As the unemployment rate has now moved above 50%, the need for programs that will create sustainable jobs and sustainable economic livelihood for Afghans has dramatically increased. As programs lay off employees, the income of these employees disappears. The same income that previously allowed these people to spend money in the market and drive the businesses of merchants. As a result, businesses have slowed, or closed, and the economy has seen a crosscutting and devastating slowing down to a crawl. On the ground people still have to survive and feed their families, this need does not go away. When normal jobs and livelihood opportunities are not available, desperate people turn to criminal and terrorist organizations to provide basic needs for their families.
In the context of Afghanistan an Aid worker is still considered someone with a good job and income. The result of this perception is that desperate people have started to systematically attack aid workers. According the Aid Worker Security Report for 2015, the total number of aid worker victims globally was 329 persons across 27 countries, among which 120 were killed, 88 were wounded and 121 were kidnapped. Afghanistan is considered one the most dangerous countries for aid workers. According to the United Nations, 57 aid workers were killed in Afghanistan in 2014. In 2015, 26 aid workers were killed and 17 were injured, according to statistics released by Acbar, a coordinating body for NGOs in Afghanistan. The reduction in 2015 is not due to less violence, but rather less Aid workers in Afghanistan as a result of the reduction in programs. Proportionately the 2015 statistics demonstrate an in crease of attacks as a percentage of the Aid workers in Afghanistan. Aid workers are forced to think of more creative ways and approaches in order to carry out their essential activities to help people.
Every day Aid workers in Afghanistan face a lack of financial resources, systematic targeting, dangerous security situations, corruption, ethnic clashes, human rights violations, and disadvantageous legal regulations for NGOs. Despite all of these challenges, at T-O-I we believe that there is a chance to overcome the problems and make a difference.