The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has implemented integrated health and protection programs across 8 provinces in Afghanistan, with an aim to assist at-risk sections of the population who have been heavily affected by conflict and natural disasters. This is done in conjunction with programming targeted at helping existing health facilities in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU is supporting these emergency response mechanisms through a contribution of 2.4 million euros. 

The IRC has been present in Afghanistan since 1988, implementing functional Integrated Protection programs for 10 years. Owing to decades of violent conflict and extreme weather events, Afghanistan ranked second in the IRC’s Emergency Watchlist 2021, exemplifying the dire need for humanitarian assistance in the country. Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have only served to exacerbate the situation. With the country’s economic and security situation on a decline, the Afghan population suffers from a multitude of issues, including increased displacement, food insecurity, and poverty. 

The IRC is working to support women, men, boys and girls affected by climate, conflict and who are at a significantly higher risk of human rights abuses and harm. An estimated 18 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, with women and children often being the most vulnerable to protection risks such as violence and forced labour. Children in emergency situations are often more susceptible to abuse, neglect or exploitation, while women and girls face the threat of gender-based violence. 

The IRC is running programs primarily aimed at providing support to those that have experienced harm, while adopting a strategy to build resilience among the communities that are targeted. Alongside this, the IRC is also implementing health initiatives aimed at supporting existing health facilities in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic (including training on best practices against infection, COVID-19 screening, and community awareness programs). This was accompanied by specific protection measures to support women and girls who have been especially affected by the pandemic. Through these EU-funded programs, the IRC was able to reach over 32,166 individuals, including 14,133 women and girls and 5,168 children. 

Vicki Aken, Country Director of IRC Afghanistan, said:

“Funding from the EU has allowed the IRC to support extremely vulnerable women, men and children to access vital services across Afghanistan. In the context of the triple threat of COVID, conflict and climate change, the multi-faceted project provides a positive contribution to health and protection services for Afghan communities.”