Achieving more together in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has experienced decades of conflict and is prone to natural disasters such as droughts and earthquakes. The country is also in the midst of a complex economic crisis.  Integral Member Medair has been providing humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan since 1996. Here Anna Coffin, Medair’s Head of Country Programmes for Afghanistan & Somalia, shares with us a new project they are able to start with support from other Integral Members, and what she finds inspiring about being part of Integral alliance …

© Medair
At mobile health and nutrition clinics, like this one in southern Afghanistan, mothers receive a supply of ‘ready to use therapeutic food’ which helps their children recover from acute malnutrition.

What is the current humanitarian situation in Afghanistan?
Approximately 24.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, which is about 62% of the population. The country is facing a huge food security crisis due to a combination of different factors – most notably a serious drought and extremely difficult economic situation.  A lot of development funding, which supported the running of basic services, is no longer being provided by the international community, so there are huge needs for very basic things like health care and safe drinking water. Life is incredibly hard for the majority of Afghan families.

What work is Medair doing in the country?
Medair is providing life-saving support for the most vulnerable people in communities, especially women and children. We are particularly focused on providing access to health and nutrition treatment services, safe drinking water, and supporting families to provide for their short-term food needs. However, we also place a lot of emphasis on the importance of improving people’s knowledge of good health and hygiene practices that can help to reduce the risk of them falling sick or becoming malnourished in the first place.

How are other Integral Members supporting you? 
Transform Aid is supporting us to provide lifesaving health and nutrition services in a very underserved area of southern Afghanistan. We are so grateful for their generous support, which will enable us to respond to the very high levels of malnutrition that we are seeing and help more of those who are suffering.

We have just heard that CEDAR fund, based in Hong Kong, has also agreed to provide generous funding for this project which is wonderful news.

What inspires you about Integral?
I am a firm believer in the idea that we can achieve more together than we can alone. What inspires me about Integral is that it is built on this desire to support each other in order to multiply the impact that we can have on the lives of the most vulnerable.

Any stories of hope to encourage us?
In August last year I visited a village in the Central Highlands where people were really suffering from the effects of the drought. We drove long distances into the mountains to visit a few of the villages where Medair was planning to start a new project. In one particular community I visited, the community didn’t have access to a working water point and were needing to hike up into the hills to collect water from a spring. At the time I visited, Medair was making detailed measurements to see how far away the water would need to be piped from.

Earlier this week I received a message from a staff member who had been with me on that visit. She told me that she had just been back to the same community and that the water point was now nearing completion. Despite all the challenges, it is really encouraging to me to see that we are still able to continue these lifesaving activities and make a difference to the daily lives of people in really remote communities.

Any hopes for the future regarding Afghanistan?
My hope for Afghanistan for the future would be for a lasting peace. There are whole generations that have never experienced living in a country without conflict. To me, that is tragic. My wish for them is that they will one day be able to experience life without fear. 

Peace is the necessary precursor to so many other improvements that are needed as well.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
It’s been so encouraging for me to see the outpouring of concern that there has been for the people of Afghanistan over the last 10 months. As Afghanistan starts to fade from our news reports again, my plea would be for people not to forget this country and the massive needs that its people are facing.

We asked Fiona Smith, Director of International Programmes at Transform Aid, for a comment:

“At times, it’s easy to become disheartened and overwhelmed by the need that we see around the world, and it can seem impossible to respond as one organisation located in Australia. By partnering with Medair on their Afghanistan response through the Integral Alliance and other responses globally, we get the privilege of becoming part of a bigger picture. Being a Member of Integral allows us to participate in a global movement of Christians and faith-based organisations taking action together not only through humanitarian response activities with local Partners, but through sharing our learning, stories, communication and fundraising strategies. As a non direct implementation organisation, we have benefited from partnering with humanitarian experts such as Medair in Afghanistan, and our Australian supporters have confidence that we are stewarding resources effectively for maximum impact. It is truly exciting to see what can be achieved when we work together.”