Why support the Red Cross’s Afghanistan appeal this fresher’s week?

(Opinions expressed in this article are not associated with the British Red Cross or any other Red Cross organisations. You can donate to our Red Cross fundraiser at this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/qmufreshersweekfundraiser2022)

“For Nurzia Rashid and her husband Rahatullah Qalandari, anxiety about Afghanistan’s Taliban regime is overshadowed by more immediate concerns: where to find the next meal for their six children.”

Thus begins a recent Financial Times article about the effects of the regime change in Afghanistan, almost a year on from the infamous fall of the Western-backed Government. But for many in Afghanistan, what has happened following the departure last August has had far more impact on their lives than the dramatic regime change itself.

Political instability aside, this country has grappled with waves of famine caused by impending climate breakdown. Recent deviations in seasonal rainfall have caused droughts in the winter that deprive crops of water, as well as flash floods in the summer that wash away any plants that managed to survive this far. Last year saw an exceptionally dry winter that brought 90% of the country under drought, with 30% being under drought considered the most severe by the International Federation of the Red Cross, while 55% of the population faced acute food shortages.

This year famine is likely again, with the  US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction stating that 18.9 million people face “potentially life-threatening” hunger and up to 6 million facing “near-famine conditions” as the winter months loom darkly ahead. As well as this, the Ukrainian grain crisis, which threatens the diets of millions in developing countries across the world, adds to the perilous food insecurity of the nation.

Afghanistan’s new international isolation has worsened the situation. The previous government was reliant on foreign aid to provide for their people, with foreign funds making up 75% of the government’s budget. Under the new administration, this foreign aid from the US and elsewhere has been promptly depleted- on top of this, $9 billion worth of foreign cash reserves have been seized by Western powers (Famine in Afghanistan | The Guardian). Despite the end of decades of conflict, the country is so cash-strapped that little can be done internally to prevent or reprieve the humanitarian crisis.   

This shortfall of public funds has decimated public health provision. A recent BBC report from the province of Badakhshan exemplified this tragedy, with miscarriages of babies doubling, a rise caused by malnourished mothers and shortages of both medicines and qualified female healthcare professionals. Elsewhere, primary care is faltering- important organisations aiming to increase the quality of healthcare, like the Sehatmandi Programme, have been struggling for much-needed funds ever since the Taliban entered government (World Health Organisation).     

It’s impossible to talk about this crisis without discussing the implications for women. A year on from the Taliban’s return, promises have not been kept regarding women’s education, and the return of the much-feared Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has signalled a consolidation of public misogyny in the country, with female officials being told to bring male relatives to do their jobs so that they can be fired. This current food crisis thus disproportionately affects women, who are excluded from the paid labour market while trying to feed their families, imprisoning them further in a climate of heavy repression and starvation.

Only a select number of aid organisations can operate in the country. The International Federation of the Red Cross is one of them. The local Afghan Red Crescent Society, which receives funding from the British Red Cross and other RC societies, operates in all 34 Afghanistan provinces. They fund and operate 140 health teams, including 70 mobile teams across the country, as well as providing relief to displaced people, such as those who have recently been forced to leave their homes as a result of a devastating  earthquake near the city of Khost in June 2022.

The BRC’s Afghanistan appeal is the QMU’s fresher’s week charity this year. As of the 24th of June, total donations to the appeal have reached £7 million, which is forwarded to Afghanistan Red Crescent and also goes towards accommodating Afghan refugees elsewhere in the world. So far, this money has provided 3,000 tonnes of food relief (with 24,500 people having already received emergency food aid), 5,000 hygiene kits and 3,500 kits containing household items (Afghanistan | British Red Cross). By donating via QMU this fresher’s week, you will be contributing to this vital effort and relieving the suffering brought about by the endemic humanitarian crisis and worsened by climate change and a misogynistic Government.

The resilient people of Afghanistan have, and continue to face, adversity that I am simply unable to communicate in this article. For many outsiders, change seems unlikely and even hopeless as the country becomes more isolated and prone to famine and drought. But everybody has the right to an assurance that they can keep themselves and their families well-fed and safe. Even in the ever-complex situation of Afghanistan, such a fact cannot and should not be ignored and the Red Cross is working to ensure this for as many as they can.

To support our fundraising efforts for the BRC’ Afghanistan Appeal, donate at this link. You can also check out our Instagram @qmucampaignsandcharities, or come and speak to any of our QMU Fresher’s Helpers you see around campus and events.

Luke Hills- QMU Charities and Campaigns Convener [he/him]

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