The Sprint to Help Afghan Families Prepare for the Harsh Winter Ahead

For many Afghan families, the onset of freezing winter temperatures poses a serious threat to their survival.

As winter approaches, humanitarian needs in Afghanistan have tripled, and will continue to rise as the bitter temperatures set in. Photo credit: WFP

Why it matters: Approximately 12 million people are facing a life or death crisis, and may not survive the winter without humanitarian assistance — an increase of nearly five times last year’s number. Temperatures in Afghanistan can drop below freezing, compounding the threats already posed by the cumulative effects of decades of conflict, a growing economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and recurrent natural disasters, including floods and prolonged drought.

Map Credit: Nina Feldman / USAID

Disaster by the numbers:

Displaced Families: Nearly 683,000 people have been displaced from their homes this year alone. Many now live in makeshift houses and cannot afford fuel for their stoves or blankets to keep their children warm.

Food Insecurity: Nearly 23 million people need food assistance, including 8.7 million people who are facing extreme hunger and struggle to find their next meal. Winter in Afghanistan can make things worse as temperatures drop, transportation routes close, and the lean season sets in.

Hospitalization and Deaths: Approximately 90 percent of deaths in children under five years of age are due to pneumonia, and some 25 to 30 percent of these deaths are due to respiratory tract infections. Exposure to the brutal cold will bring a rise in respiratory illness outbreaks, increasing the risk of hospitalization and death— especially among the young and the old.

Snow and ice will soon block roads in hard-to-reach areas across Afghanistan, like this one, leaving thousands without access to fresh supplies and services for months. Photo credit: IOM

What USAID is doing about it:

Providing shelter and relief items: USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance partners have provided heaters, fuel, winter clothing, blankets, shelter repair kits, tents, and cash assistance to help thousands of the most vulnerable families prepare for the harsh winter ahead. Our partner the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) continues to conduct winter needs assessments in 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

USAID partner the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently delivered shelter kits to families in Afghanistan. Photo credit: IOM

Delivering emergency food: In anticipation of increased lean season food needs, USAID is continuing to provide critical food assistance through its partner, the UN World Food Program (WFP). In November, WFP reached a 2021 record high of 7 million people with assistance across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan. This included vital support for displaced families, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and malnourished children.

Video courtesy: WFP

Supplying lifesaving medical supplies + vital health care: USAID is working with partners to support health care needs across Afghanistan, including through dispatching medical supplies, training health staff, and deploying mobile health teams. In September, our partner the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and other humanitarian health agencies reached more than a half million people in Afghanistan with health care services.

Supporting a large humanitarian response in Afghanistan: The United States is committed to continuing to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Afghanistan and is the single largest largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing nearly $474 million in humanitarian assistance since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2021 alone, including more than $297 million from USAID.

Freezing temperatures and snow, along with challenging terrain create major obstacles in reaching remote parts of Afghanistan. Photo credit: Isabelle Moussard Carlsen / UNOCHA

Get more information on USAID’s humanitarian response in Afghanistan.

Follow USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.




USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance saves lives on behalf of the American people.

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USAID Saves Lives

USAID Saves Lives

USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance saves lives on behalf of the American people.

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