Afghanistan is frequently devastated by natural disasters — earthquakes, flooding and drought are common and they often trigger landslides and avalanches. Combined with endemic poverty and an unstable socio-political environment, the precarious landscape creates a high risk of displacement for the country’s population of more than 30 million. In addition, an estimated 60 percent of Afghan children are affected by malnutrition and nearly one third of the country’s population — an estimated 8.8 million people — are food insecure.
The country’s remote Kunar Province, which borders Pakistan, particularly suffers chronic child malnutrition and extreme food insecurity. The situation becomes especially acute during the long winter months when job opportunities dwindle and the price of wheat, oil, fuel and wood rise. As a result, poor families grapple with the challenge of keeping warm and staying fed.
To help alleviate food insecurity in the region, Relief International worked with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs & Disabled to create the Afghan Social Protection Program. This World Bank-sponsored program, which runs from 2014 to 2016, provides families with direct cash transfers so they can buy food during winter months. Female-headed and isolated households are particularly vulnerable. Because Kunar is remote and isolated, RI employed experienced national staff familiar with the region to help map, mobilize, register and select families for four cash transfers over two years. The staff’s knowledge of geography and the local communities informed where activities would be implemented, and where cash transfers would be most beneficial. The teams identified 120 communities across two districts. RI also fosters women’s community engagement in this and every Afghan program.