On Tuesday 2 July, in a hearing at the Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, we presented the serious humanitarian situation in Afghanistan together with three other civil society organisations: Emergency, Afgana and United Against Inhumanity (UAI)

As the international debate on Afghanistan resumes, rightly calling for an end to gender discrimination and full respect for women’s rights, the population of the Asian country continues to suffer the effects of war and the humanitarian situation remains serious in terms of food, health and education. These were the issues raised today, 2 July, at a hearing of the Chamber of Deputies’ Standing Committee on Human Rights, chaired by the Honourable Laura Boldrini and attended by four representatives of civil society organisations: Rossella Miccio of EMERGENCY, Giovanni Visone of INTERSOS, Giuliano Battiston of Afgana and Antonio Donini of United Against Inhumanity (UAI).

In a country where development assistance from Western countries covered around 73% of the budget until August 2021, the almost total absence of aid and the sanctions continue to aggravate the already difficult survival of the population.

EMERGENCY: 86% of Afghans were forced to borrow money for treatment and 70% had to postpone treatment. The indiscriminate violence caused by explosives is particularly relevant: from January to April 2024, EMERGENCY admitted more than 200 patients for shrapnel or mine wounds. 94, or one in two, were under the age of 18. In 24 years, the organisation has invested around 180 million euros to guarantee the right to care without discrimination by promoting a culture of peace and rights, not only for patients, but also for the 1,700 local staff, including 370 Afghan women, who are able to work in the health sector: a model of inclusion and emancipation for local communities and of possible influence on the authorities to guarantee health and channels of dialogue on education and training for women and girls. This is why it is necessary to invest in health, so that hospitals can continue to guarantee the right to care and be places of peace and reconstruction for communities that for too many decades have had neither opportunities nor prospects, first because of war and now because of poverty and international neglect.

INTERSOS: In a country where 23.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid to survive, where 80% of families live on less than one dollar a day, and where maternal and child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world, it is imperative to act with a renewed humanitarian response that is not conditioned by other objectives and is based on 4 pillars:

  • Fully funding the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2024 with predictable, flexible and multi-year resources to support an effective response.
  • Reinvigorated development and early recovery funding to support the restoration of basic services, especially health.
  • Equitable access to services and assistance for the entire Afghan population, with a focus on marginalised groups (IDPs, returnees, women and children, and people with disabilities). This can only be achieved through active engagement between humanitarian organisations, international actors and the authorities.
  • Reaffirming the centrality of the active role of women, who still represent about 50% of INTERSOS staff in the country, and their essential contribution to humanitarian action and the growth of Afghan society.

Almost three years have passed since the Taliban took over as the de facto authority in the country. Three years in which INTERSOS has continuously confirmed and strengthened its humanitarian presence alongside the Afghan population, witnessing first-hand the impact of the crisis and the country’s isolation on the population, especially the most vulnerable. In particular, INTERSOS has worked to support the local health system and to extend humanitarian intervention in remote rural and mountain areas of Kabul, Kandahar and Zabul provinces, with particular attention to the most vulnerable groups, providing protection services, medical consultations, vaccination programmes, maternal and child health, emergency and trauma services, as well as nutrition programmes for children, pregnant and lactating women.

The data before us is extremely critical. 23.7 million people, more than half the population, need humanitarian assistance to survive. More than 80% of families live on less than one dollar a day. Rates of maternal and child malnutrition are among the highest in the world, as is the number of deaths in childbirth, a consequence of a fragile health system that is supported only by the presence of international NGOs, especially in remote rural and mountain areas. These are data that demand action. And this action must be based on the reaffirmation of the non-conditionality of humanitarian aid and the rejection of any logic that subordinates humanitarian action based on principles to objectives of a different order.

We call for this relaunch of humanitarian action to be based on four pillars:

  • Ensure full funding of the 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan, providing predictable, flexible and multi-year funding to support an effective response and prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country.
  • Promote the resumption of development funding, which accounted for 80% of aid to Afghanistan before August 2021, and early recovery funding, without which it is impossible to address the root causes of the humanitarian crisis and support the resumption of basic services, particularly health services. We see this in INTERSOS projects to ensure access to health care, as well as in protection activities: emergency humanitarian action is vital, but it cannot be seen as a sufficient and sustainable long-term response to the needs of the population, transforming mere resilience into progressive self-reliance and reducing aid dependency.
  • Support equitable access to services and assistance for the entire Afghan population, with particular attention to marginalised groups, including IDPs, returnees, women and children, and persons with disabilities, ensuring that their specific needs are heard and their rights respected. This can only be achieved through active dialogue between humanitarian organisations, international actors and the authorities.
  • Reaffirming the centrality of the active role of women, who still represent about 50% of our staff in the country, and the indispensability of their contribution to humanitarian action and to the growth of Afghan society.

With these objectives in mind, and, let us not forget, in order to guarantee diplomatic and material support for the millions of Afghans and Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries, we believe that Italy – also because of its links with Afghanistan’s recent history – can and must relaunch a transparent aid policy and return to a stronger role in international fora and in the European Union.

Giovanni Visone, INTERSOS Director of Communication and Fundraising

UAI: The issue of the confiscation of the reserves of the Central Bank of Afghanistan (‘DAB’) by the United States and its allies, with the freezing of $9.5 billion in the Federal Reserve Bank and, to a lesser extent, in European banks (including Italy), was also raised. The DAB has effectively been cut off from the international banking system and is no longer able to carry out its normal activities to ensure the functioning of the economy. The Afghan people are suffering the consequences of arbitrary and unfair measures. A gradual unfreezing of these funds, which belong to the Afghan people, under international supervision is urgently needed for the well-being of the population and does not imply recognition of the Taliban regime.

Afghana: In addition to the humanitarian and economic crisis, internal repression and gender discrimination, Afghan society also suffers from the lack of courage and political creativity of Euro-Atlantic diplomacy. As the then UN Special Coordinator Feridun Sinirlioğlu recommended, ‘a more integrated and coherent international effort’ is needed through a results-oriented roadmap.


Faced with the current impasse, there is a need for a gap to protect the population: a diplomacy of small steps, behind the scenes, which is not declamatory and based on ultimatums, but which seeks the option that best protects the rights and needs of the Afghan population and women. Speaking out does not mean recognising the regime or accepting its repressive and discriminatory policies. There is a wide range of options between inaction and legitimisation. This is the position of a section of Afghan civil society based in the country, including women’s NGOs. The consequences of disengagement and isolation would be paid for by the same groups that want to defend those who reject any hypothesis of negotiation.