The Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan
What is the Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan?
As of March 2023, almost 6 million Afghans have been driven out of their homes or their country by conflict, violence, and poverty, spurring a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Some 800,000 people from Afghanistan were displaced internally in 2021 alone. Two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population require urgent humanitarian assistance. The crisis is exacerbated by ongoing food insecurity, natural disasters, drought, and COVID-19.
The Women’s Refugee Commission is particularly concerned about the rights of Afghan women and girls, which are under severe threat since the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, and their ability to access humanitarian services. Women and girls face gender-based discrimination and violence. Girls have been banned from secondary and higher education, and women have been forced out of jobs. Women are not allowed to participate in political or public life, and cannot move around unless they are accompanied by a male chaperone.
WRC Priorities for the Afghanistan Crisis
The Women’s Refugee Commission has developed a list of top priorities around the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan to address the needs of women, girls, and other marginalized groups, including Afghan refugees impacted by the crisis.
- Full restoration of women and girl’s rights, including their right to education, employment, movement, and participation in public life, and freedom from violence.
- Equitable and nondiscriminatory distribution of humanitarian aid, including livelihoods, food security, gender-based violence (GBV), health, education, and peacebuilding with a gender lens.
- Direct and flexible funding to Afghan women’s rights organizations and Afghan women leaders to continue critical functions, such as operating shelters for GBV survivors and at-risk women and girls, distributing humanitarian relief, and supporting women human rights defenders.
- Expansion of evacuation and resettlement for Afghan women human rights defenders and other at-risk or marginalized groups, such as Hazara women and LGBTQI+ individuals. Read our recommendations on immediate actions for the Biden administration and world to take.
How to Help Afghan Women and Girls
If you are in the United States, you can contact your Congressional representative and Senators to help women and girls affected by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Urge them to call on President Joe Biden to take action to mobilize the international community to center gender equality and human rights in all diplomatic, development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian engagement in Afghanistan.
WRC's Advocacy on the Afghanistan Crisis
WRC is committed to ensuring the protection of the needs and rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and those displaced globally. Below is a list of WRC’s advocacy work related to the Afghanistan crisis.
Advocates Demand Urgent Action to Support Afghan Women and Girls Following New Restrictions on Women’s Rights and Humanitarian Aid
The Women’s Refugee Commission and four other members of the U.S. Policy Advocates for Afghan Women’s and Girls’ Rights Working Group released a statement deploring and strongly condemning the latest attacks on women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Gayatri Patel, speaking as WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations, responds in this WRC statement to what human rights advocates are calling another demonstration of the gender apartheid imposed on Afghan women: the Taliban has — in less than a week — banned women in Afghanistan from attending university and women from working in NGOs.
One year after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, WRC led advocacy through this policy brief on urgent priorities for US government action to fully restore women and girls’ rights and ensure response to Afghanistan’s worsening humanitarian crisis meets the needs of women, girls, and other marginalized groups.
WRC joins three organizations calling on the US government and its international partners to prioritize the lives, safety, and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls.
Policy Brief: Lifesaving Humanitarian Response for Women and Girls in Afghanistan—An Urgent Call for US Action
Violent conflict, a devastating drought, and food insecurity affecting over half the population in Afghanistan are driving one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. This brief, developed by WRC and partner organizations, outlines recommendations for urgent US action.
Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally Co-Chair Letter on Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
This letter to the Biden administration from the co-chairs of the Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally details the deep concern from the co-chairs about the growing threat to the rights and safety of women and girls in Afghanistan. Gayatri Patel, WRC’s vice president for advocacy and external relations, is a co-chair of the coalition and one of the co-signers of the letter.
Menendez, Shaheen Lead Senate Colleagues in Bipartisan Letter Urging Biden Admin to Protect Afghan Women Leaders in Wake of Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) were joined by 44 of their Senate colleagues in urging the Biden administration to take swift, robust action to protect and support Afghan women leaders facing unparalleled danger following the Taliban’s violent sweep across Afghanistan and seizure of Kabul. WRC’s direct advocacy toward the US government urged the administration and Congress to protect Afghan women’s and girls’ rights and ensure humanitarian responses address their needs.
WRC Media on the Afghanistan Crisis
The news media across the world have featured WRC’s research and staff expertise on the impact of the Afghanistan crisis on refugees.
National Public Radio station WAMC interviewed Gayatri Patel, speaking as WRC’s vice president for advocacy and external relations, for its 51% radio show on the particular needs of women and girls in conflict and crises, including in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
In an op-ed in Ms. Magazine, Gayatri Patel, in the role of WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations, writes that Afghan women’s views, experiences, and voices must be at the center when it comes to Afghanistan’s future, if Afghanistan is to have a future.
Over the past six months, the Taliban has targeted and terrorized the women and girls of Afghanistan, swiftly reimposing draconian measures that limit their freedom and undermine their safety. Statement by WRC and others.
They Rejected Rescue for a Chance to Get a Fulbright and Change Afghanistan. Now, All That is in Doubt
In an article in USA Today, Gayatri Patel, speaking as WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations, said it’s not clear how many at-risk Afghans rejected evacuation offers to stay in their home country.
Women’s Refugee Commission Statement at UN High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan
WRC’s Stephanie Johanssen, in the role of associate director of advocacy and UN representative, provided a statement at the United Nations High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
WRC urged President Biden to reconsider his decision to not extend the August 31 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, highlighting the numbers of at-risk Afghans—including women activists and other human rights defenders who may need to be evacuated.
WRC’s Gayatri Patel, who serves as vice president, external relations and advocacy, talked with rePROs Fight Back about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the impact on women and girls.
In The Washington Post, WRC’s Gayatri Patel, speaking as WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations, discussed how thousands of women in Afghanistan who worked to advance women’s rights are at risk.
On CNN‘s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Gayatri Patel, speaking as WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations, discussed what is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover.
‘They’re Really Sitting Ducks’: Refugee Advocates Inundated with Pleas for Help from Vulnerable Afghans
In an article in USA Today, Gayatri Patel, speaking as WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations, described the urgent need to protect women’s rights defenders in Afghanistan.
Women’s Refugee Commission Urges Biden Administration to Immediately Evacuate Afghan Women’s Rights Activists, Families Trapped in Afghanistan
As the Taliban prepared to take control of Afghanistan, WRC called on President Biden to send in any necessary military planes to help evacuate women’s rights activists and their families currently attempting to flee the country and Taliban persecution.