Investments need to be directed towards enabling societies and building resilience.

AKDN / Kiana Hayeri

What concerns you most about the current humanitarian situation?

We always had uncertainties and lived through them, but this time it’s going to take a lot more time and effort for people to come out of the fear and hopelessness. Women in particular are very concerned about what will happen to them and their children in the future. The situation at Kabul airport in August was an example of how desperate people were to leave the country. In fact, that is another concern I have: Hundreds of thousands have left Afghanistan in the last six months and those were mostly educated people. The country cannot afford such a loss of human capital – or a so-called “brain drain” – particularly at a time [when] they are very much required.

Another area of concern is financial constraints. We’ve lost many economic ties and the normal flow of funds – whether that be for business and trade or for humanitarian aid and development – has become increasingly difficult to maintain. This is affecting the livelihoods of millions of Afghans.

How has AKF adapted to the situation?

When it comes to talking about our ability to adapt, I always emphasise the history of our presence. We’ve been operating here since 2003, and the wider Aga Khan Development Network since 1996. That means our engagements, operations and programme design and implementation have always been informed by Afghanistan’s fragile environment and its challenges. We’ve been able to remain operational and that is very much rooted in what we’ve done in the last two decades. We’ve always worked at the local level, established strong relationships with communities and have created an environment in which our programmes are not only accepted by communities but are also owned by them.

Our neutrality, quality of work and reach have played an important role in our resilience at this time, as well as our ability to reorganise ourselves in the face of the crisis.

What does AKF’s work in Afghanistan look like now?

During the aftermath of 15 August, we restarted our operations and reorganised our existing programmes. Of course, there are limitations, but we’ve endeavoured to remain active in all the areas that we were already working in. That includes major programmes such as health, education and early childhood development, agriculture and food security, climate change adaptation, economic recovery and infrastructure development.

On top of this, we’ve added an entire humanitarian response, through which we’re aiming to reach more than 500,000 households, approximately 3.5 million people. Currently, this includes delivering food packages, as well as supporting food-for-work and cash-for-work activities. We’re acutely aware of the importance of agriculture in the country, so this work also involves support for livestock development and supplying resources to farmers.