Afghanistan: One year on
16 August 22
One year ago the Taliban rolled into Kabul and cemented its control of Afghanistan, taking advantage of the withdrawal of international forces and fatigue amongst the international community. People around the world watched in real time the desperation of Afghans as the country collapsed into chaos.
The first six months after I was still dreaming terrible things.
For many Afghans the events of the last year marked a rolling back of the past twenty years of determination and effort to build their country and the incredible progress they experienced. After August 2021 a climate of fear took over the country as thousands attempted to flee for their lives. Others were forced to go into hiding. Afghanistan has since plunged into another cycle of humanitarian crisis – Almost 23 million people face acute hunger with all parts of Afghanistan facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. The atmosphere in Afghanistan is marked by fear and worry about safety particularly among girls and women whose rights have been heavily restricted. This ongoing human rights abuse will have long term psychological ramifications for those affected.
The past year has seemed like a repeating of history for many and indeed trauma is rarely an individual experience. It is experienced collectively, especially in cases of conflict and subsequent mass displacement, and it is passed on through generations. Young Afghans, and those who have not yet been born, may not remember the events of August 2021 as they grow older but they may still feel the pain of what their parents experienced.
Now I hate the month of August.
Chronic, toxic stress and the breakdown of protective structures (support networks) make refugees, particularly children, vulnerable to the impacts of trauma, resulting in poor health, economic and life outcomes. In the case of Afghanistan, years of conflict and crisis means that Afghan people are dealing with intergenerational trauma.
Amna’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan aimed to stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma and give Afghan refugees coping tools as they processed their experiences and tried to rebuild their lives. Led by our mission of building community capacity for collective healing, Amna launched its first emergency response and invited applications from NGOs and community organisations across the world who were and would be supporting Afghan refugees who had been newly displaced. Through seed funding, capacity-strengthening, mentorship and tools, Amna would support these organisations who provide psychosocial support to Afghans of every age.
I feel safe here but being far from my family still hurts me.
We launched therapeutic groups for Afghans to promote emotional healing, stabilisation and emotional regulation with therapists who speak Dari, English, Farsi and Pashto and free trainings to organisations to provide an introduction to trauma-sensitive support. Finally, we continued to support frontline workers through our humanitarian wellbeing spaces.
Our partnerships with community organisations led Amna to work in Albania, Italy, Kosovo and Pakistan for the first time.
One of the most important outcomes of these partnerships was the creation of safe, welcoming psychosocial spaces to support Afghan refugees in the aftermath of their journeys, in transition or when integrating into their host countries. Our partners used a variety of tools and methods including arts and movement to help the Afghan community process and express their experiences, aspirations and fears. Writing workshops were also conducted to relieve stress and encourage sharing among the community. Across our partners, the Afghan community has reported improved wellbeing and motivation for the next stages of their life.
It’s been a year and I’m happy that I can help my family. If I was still there I wouldn’t be able to help them.
Refugees and asylum seekers experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders than members of the general population – anyone forced to leave their home, their community and their livelihood behind would feel the impact of their loss – but some of the worst impacts of conflict can be mitigated through small interventions that help new arrivals feel safe again.
Amna is committed to continuing to support the Afghan community in the years to come. Please donate to support our work.
Whatever I want to do I can do.