Afghanistan: Persisting Hopelessness for Girls

Ein Mädchen und eine Frau stehen in einem Hauseingang.

August 2023 marks two years since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. Many children still have no access to education and medical care. For girls in particular, the situation is becoming increasingly hopeless. The leading Swiss children's rights organisation Terre des hommes offers psychological support on the ground and raises awareness of children's rights among the population.

On 15 August 2023, it will be two years since Afghanistan made international headlines with the collapse of its government. Since then, the country is no longer at war, but there is widespread hopelessness and helplessness. Although the situation has eased slightly in the past two years, basic human rights continue to be disregarded and humanitarian aid is being deliberately hampered.

The situation in the country remains unclear. In the absence of a political dialogue between the de facto authorities and the international community, there are deliberate attempts to limit the influence of humanitarian organisations. This can be seen in the ban on NGOs employing Afghan women in sectors other than healthcare, or in the decision to no longer allow international NGOs to work in community-based education. Under constantly changing and often contradictory conditions, organising humanitarian activities often proves tedious and complicated.

The Most Significant Change

"Staff members tell how their daughters often cry because they are only at home and are no longer allowed to go to school," says Erhard Bauer, Tdh Head of Delegation in Afghanistan. "The sharp deterioration in access to education for girls and women is one of the biggest changes we have seen here since the Taliban took power."

In no other country in the world are girls' and women's rights disregarded as much as in Afghanistan. Since the first restrictions on access to education were imposed last year, their place in public life has been steadily shrinking. Girls are only allowed to attend school up to the sixth grade, and meanwhile there are signs that attendance will soon only be allowed up to the third grade. This not only destroys the hopes and dreams of an entire generation, but also has a drastic effect on the girls' mental health. Moreover, without training opportunities, how will it be possible later on for women to pursue professions that, according to Afghan tradition, can only be filled by female professionals, such as midwives or teachers at girl’s schools? The situations remains currently unclear.

The Precarious Situation Persists for Many Children

For some parts of the population, the situation has eased somewhat within the last two years - there are more medicines again, the price level has dropped and food production has increased. Nevertheless, the country is still considered one of the most dangerous places for children. They are traumatised by several years of war, conflict and resulting displacement. The persistent drought caused by climate change, as well as floods and destroyed crops, further endanger their livelihoods. 2.3 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition in Afghanistan this year. Especially in remote areas, children cannot attend school and have no access to medical care. Tdh visits these areas with mobile clinics and offers protection services through psychological and social support. The organisation conducts awareness sessions on child rights and child protection among adults and supports families with emergency aid. 
"The situation has improved to some extent, but stability is very fragile. Any sudden change can be a risk," says Erhard Bauer.


Source image: ©Tdh

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