Frau mit zwei Kindern und Hilfsgütern in Afghanistan


"We must find ways to empower people in Afghanistan"

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has severely worsened since the change of political power last year. Asif Khan, Head of Office for the German Red Cross in Islamabad, Pakistan, has visited Kabul in July to assess the living conditions and needs of the families in Afghanistan.

August 2022

What was your last visit to Afghanistan about?

In July this year, almost a year after the Taliban took the power in Afghanistan in August 2021, I travelled for the German Red Cross to Kabul to assess the humanitarian situation and identify the most pressing needs.  

Helferin des Afghanischen Roten Halbmondes spricht mit einer Frau

What changed for families in the last months, how is their daily life?

It might sound odd, but there are some people, who appreciate the current situation for the time being because the fighting of decades has seemingly stopped. On the other hand, there is much uncertainty and distress about the future, seeing how the humanitarian situation is worsening. And still, it is not clear what further political decisions will be taken and how they will affect the population.

Medical checks for the community in Kapisa, Northwestern Afghanistan

How do you see the humanitarian situation?

There is a lack of cash since bank systems are not functioning. Bad economic conditions decrease the availability of food, clean drinking water, medicine and other essential items. There is a lot of displacement within Afghanistan. In the search of income opportunities, people move to urban areas. There they are often living under very challenging and poor conditions. For the winter many families lack adequate shelter.  Fundamental services remain extremely limited, access to schools and health services is hampered, there are barely sufficient income opportunities.

Mädchen in einer Grundschule in Afghanistan

Is the situation particularly challenging for women?

The likelihood of young girls and women to go to school or university is shrinking. Families are worried, that their daughters will not be able to achieve any school education at all. Many well-educated people have left Afghanistan already. This brain drain weakens the public structure additionally.

Currently women can work only in medical services, education and international humanitarian organisations. In public places you see only few women and it is not possible to talk to them.  But I had the possibility to speak to women working on an international level for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. They say: “We are lucky, that we still can come to the office.”

How stable is the collaboration between the Pakistan and the Afghan Red Crescent?

One national society can benefit from the other. They are trusted partners for 30 years. Our project-staff is located in Islamabad; culturally, we both countries have a lot in common, for example we speak the same language, which gives us access to confidence.

Helfer des Afghanischen Roten Halbmondes mit Hilfsgütern

What are the plans in humanitarian aid?

A lot of well-trained people have left the country. So, at first there is the requirement to maintain and strengthen the remaining capacities of the Afghan Red Crescent and reinforce their strategic plan for humanitarian action.

The most crucial approach to aid is to strengthen livelihood. That means, we must find ways to empower people, to buy food and water for their families themselves. But, of course, the precondition for this is to involve people and to offer them trainings and vocational perspectives, for example by new technics in agriculture or by managing an own vegetable garden – in the sense of: “Don’t give the people a fish, make them learn to get a fish.”

Helfer des Afghanischen Roten Halbmondes spricht mit einem Jungen

What do you wish for the country in the next years in an optimistic, but realistic way - like in a framework of the possible?

I see a long way to go. I wish that people see peace, they need to have peace. They need to have human dignity and fundamental rights. Education is a human right; health is a human right. Dignity as a human being is a human right. All people in Afghanistan need to have a normal life. That is what I wish for the country.

September 2022

Asif Khan, DRK-Büroleiter in Islamabad, vor dem DRK-Generalsekretariat Berlin

Asif Khan is working for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for twenty years. He is an expert in Disaster Management and Emergency Response, operating for example in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Since 2020 he is working for the German Red Cross, currently as Head of Office in Islamabad, Pakistan. His tasks involve Disaster Risk Reduction in rural and urban communities. One main focus is lying in the collaboration between government authorities and the Pakistan Red Crescent to build up Disaster Preparedness due to climate change.

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