A boy carries a child inside a compound with different houses belonging to his extended family. The family came back to Kabul in 2003 after living in Iran during the Taliban time. In Iran they were farmers, here in Kabul some members of the family collect garbage for 1 to 2 dollars a day. Credit: Joël van Houdt/Oxfam Novib

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Despite significant improvements since 2001, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world; with nearly 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Government institutions are weak and unable to deliver basic services.

Participation of women in decision making and in other spheres of society remains limited. Violence against women is still a major challenge in Afghanistan. Women continue to be brutally punished by different forms of violence. Access to health facilities is poor and access to quality education and a lack of female teachers are other major challenges in Afghanistan which cause a high number of girls to drop out of schools.

Oxfam in Afghanistan

Oxfam first provided support in Afghanistan in 1961 and has been directly providing humanitarian and development assistance in the country since 1991, including during the Taliban rule. We currently work in Kabul and other seven provinces of the country: Balkh, Daikundi, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Nangarhar and Takhar. Through our local partners, Oxfam provides assistance to families and communities affected by natural and man-made disasters. We work with poor communities to help them pull themselves out of poverty and improve their lives. We promote the rights of women and youth to become agents of change and fight for their rights. In a critical but constructive way, Oxfam works with government institutions to build capacity and influence policies that will help address structural poverty and inequality. To create lasting change, together with our partners also speak out on behalf of marginalized groups at the highest levels in both Afghanistan and among the international community.

Working in and on conflict

Afghanistan remains a country in conflict, which manifests itself every day in various forms and at different levels. Therefore, conflict sensitivity and conflict transformation lie at the heart of Oxfam’s work in Afghanistan. For us, conflict sensitivity means fully understanding the context in which we operate. We constantly assess how our work affects conflict dynamics, aiming to avoid negative impact, and maximize positive effects. Aspiring to produce positive and peaceful outcomes, Oxfam’s central focus is on conflict transformation. Through our programs and the relationships, we build with and between Afghan people and power holders, we constantly seek to address some of the key driving factors of conflict.

We work in four thematic areas:

  • Economic justice: Oxfam especially works with marginalized groups such as small farmers and women headed households to improve their lives by building sustainable livelihoods, increasing their access to markets, and building resilience to climate change. We promote fair and equal access to natural resources as a way to address some of the root causes of conflict.
  • Gender Justice: Oxfam promotes the rights of youth and women to enable them to have a voice, participate in decision making processes and constructively work with the government to improve and promote policies that foster inclusive security, peace building and justice.
  • Governance: Oxfam promotes and strengthen the constructive engagement of civil society with the district, provincial and national levels of government to improve and support the delivery of essential services in line with people’s needs and with an overarching goal to address some of the key drivers of conflict.
  • Humanitarian: Afghanistan is highly vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters including drought, floods, and conflict. From another hand, the recent influx of more than 2 million of Afghan returnees from Pakistan and Iran in the period of just two years, further exacerbates the challenges. Oxfam works with Afghans affected by natural and man-made disasters and Afghan returnees to rebuild their lives and become more resilient to shocks. Oxfam provides aid through programs focused on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), protection, food security, cash assistance, and broader livelihood support.