UN provides cash assistance, jobs to save Afghan families from hunger, economic hardship

By Omar

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started distributing cash assistance to 5,000 families who were displaced either by conflict or drought in the country's western region. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- The United Nations (UN) has increased humanitarian assistance for thousands of vulnerable Afghan households who are on the brink of starvation and humanitarian catastrophe following the collapse of the previous government.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started distributing cash assistance to 5,000 families who were displaced either due to conflict or drought in the country's western region.

Each household will receive about $265 in cash assistance.

Funding for the humanitarian assistance package was provided by the United States, European countries, Australia, Canada and Japan.

As part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s cash-for-work project, labourers clean a canal in Herat city on December 1. [Omar/Salaam Times]

As part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s cash-for-work project, labourers clean a canal in Herat city on December 1. [Omar/Salaam Times]

The cash assistance aims to save the lives of displaced families in the upcoming winter season, Wahid Ahmad Enayat, spokesperson for UNHCR in Afghanistan's western region, said December 1.

"Those who have received our assistance had no survival means, and if they did not receive the assistance, they would most probably lose their children during the winter," he said.

The UN and donor countries will not abandon the Afghan people during these difficult circumstances and will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to as many destitute families as resources allow, Enayat said.

"We shall continue providing humanitarian assistance throughout winter months, and will reach additional vulnerable families," he said.

Dad Mohammad, who has been displaced to Herat from Jawand district, Badghis province, is one of the beneficiaries of the UNHCR aid.

The cash assistance will help his family survive the winter, he said.

"I was farming in my village, but I was forced to abandon my hometown by the the conflict," Mohammad said. "Now there is neither a job nor a government to assist us."

"I have been left without income for the past two months and lived in someone else's house," he said. "We do not have anything to eat and are starving."


In addition, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in October launched a crisis response initiative called "ABADEI" to provide employment opportunities for thousands of Afghans.

The programme will provide emergency assistance to the country's most vulnerable families.

ABADEI aims to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and the collapse of the country's economy by supporting the most vulnerable populations and micro-businesses in Afghanistan.

"The country needs immediate humanitarian assistance, but we also need to keep the local economies going -- this is fundamental to ensure that people still have livelihoods and feel that they have a future in their communities," UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Part of the initiative includes a "cash-for-work" project, which will offer short-term income to thousands of unemployed Afghans so they can combat starvation in the upcoming winter months, Abdallah al-Dardari, UNDP's resident representative in Afghanistan, said December 1.

The UNDP has provided employment opportunities to as many as 1,500 individuals in Herat province.

Day labourers have started cleaning up a 6-metre-wide canal in Herat city and will then be dispatched to perform other tasks, he said.

"The programme also covers women," al-Dardari said. "We are supporting women in areas such as handicrafts and small businesses."

The assistance goes directly to the people of Afghanistan, he added.

Esmatullah, a beneficiary of the ABADEI emergency employment programme, said he used to face enormous economic challenges, and now that he has a job -- and an income -- he feels very happy.

"I did not have anything to eat, nor did I have money to buy food," he said. "Now that I have an income, I will be able to put food on the table for my family."

"I love to be busy working and able to earn halal income for my family," he said. "I was frustrated because I was jobless and poor. I hope I can continue to work and build my country."

Poverty, hunger on the rise

Poverty and hunger have increased significantly across Afghanistan following the collapse of the previous government and the reduction in international aid to the country.

Based on the World Food Programme (WFP) projection, up to 90% of the Afghan population may be at risk of sinking below the poverty line by mid-2022.

Out of an estimated 39 million people living in Afghanistan, nearly 23 million are facing acute hunger, the WFP warned.

Abdul Qadir, 45, a disabled resident of Herat city, said he used to receive monthly assistance from the previous government but has not received any income for the past four months.

After the collapse of the previous government, disabled people have been left with no means of survival and are at risk of starvation, he said.

"I don't know what to do. I have no way to feed my five-member family," he said. "Winter is upon us, and we have nothing to eat or anything to keep us warm."

Sayed Mohammad, a labourer in Herat city, said he has not worked for the past four months and is facing hunger and extreme poverty.

"I have four children and am the only breadwinner of my household," he said. "I have gone out to find work every day of the past four months, but I have not been able to work even for a single day."

"Nobody has assisted us so far," Mohammad said. "I have contacted the governor's office many times and begged for assistance but have yet to receive a positive response."

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I am completely against cash grants. Of course, some families have no one to make revenues for them; perhaps they have lost men in the wars. If the aid is distributed in a way as it is considered based on the presence or absence of the head of the family. Based on this, we can find several types of families; families with a head of household, those without a head of household, and those with a head of the household but weak/unable to do physical work. The main thing is that low-income families have guardians, and the guardians can work. It is indeed a poor family - it should not be ignored. Such persons should not be paid in cash but in exchange for their work. Their force should be used for the development of the country. Once, some organizations used to give wheat in exchange for work. What was the work like in rural areas? Cleaning the rivers, building dams... If there is nothing else to do, they can dig pits in the deserts in the rural areas, close the mouths of the canyons, and contain the water flow. This work was done on the outskirts of Kabul city during the time of former President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. I am sure that this year's snow will be vastly stored. Afghans need to make their water, and if such cash is distributed, there will be two losses. One would be that people would get lazy and get used to waiting for the organizations. Another disadvantage will be that the water will continue to flow uselessly like in the past. The welfare of the country is important.


A little before the failure of the presidential system, one day, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani was giving a speech. In part, he addressed the Taliban and said, "come, you help me provide security. I guarantee the growth of the economy." If you want Afghanistan to move economically, make it stand on its feet, get rid of need and desperation, and not get needy to sell his children to protect his other children from starvation. Wish hands were given to each other instead of seeking power, work was done for permanent peace, stability, and economic solidity, no one was considered alien, the young human resources were not scattered, one would not put himself under the trucks' tires, would not commit suicide, nor presented his children for selling in the market. Neither a university's male nor female professor was getting needy to sell fruit on a cart, nor would the school and university teachers and lecturers polished peoples' shoes for AFN 10, nor lines of the hungry women and children were made in front of the bakery shops, nor the WFP would say that "2 million people will die for hunger". Wish all sides have given priority only to "Afghanistan and the Afghan human" in their efforts. If it had happened so, now we would not have experienced such doomsdays. Neither would anyone suggest eating grasses, nor would anyone have escaped. Not it could be this hell-wise life. Still, unfortunately, they did not make compromises with each other, they did not tolerate each other, and everyon


No one would allow being arrested by the mafia of thieves, No one wants their parliament again to turn to the base of toilet cleaners, No one wants again to have Sattar Mirzakawal become their interior and Bismillah Khan Peshqilfrosh [dung seller] minister of defense, The Lebanese Rulagay becomes their queen, and the Masoom Jan Maghulkhil works as the security prince. Still, the broad-based-ness does not mean that a Qari becomes minister, Akhundzada becomes provincial governor, Sahibzada becomes director, Mullah becomes banker, and Hafiz becomes an overall authority. Afghanistan has a 36 million population. It is the most ancient country in the region, has classes, politicians, social activists, tribal formations, cultural organizations. Broad-based-ness means to have representatives of all these people in the government. This representation should be based on piousness and devoutness.


The cash-for-work initiative by the UN is very much appreciated. Thank you UNDP. Afghans don't want free cash assistance or any other emergency aid for free, and they don't like it. Please make all kinds of aid in exchange for work. Give Afghans temporary and permanent jobs and they will work very hard and effectively. Pay AFN 500 daily and all Afghans will work for you all day, and the type of work doesn't matter. Working can be excavating canals, cleaning road side ditches, cleaning irrigation canals, construction works and anything the UN needs to help other helpless Afghans during the winter. Hire needy Afghans for helping other needy Afghans and pay them justly. Please don't distribute free cash among the people who can work.