USAID is focused on meeting basic needs through our support for livelihoods, agriculture, education, and health. We also work to strengthen civil society and human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls. 

In addition to our development work, USAID’s humanitarian partners provide lifesaving food, shelter, livelihood opportunities, essential health care, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services to better respond to the humanitarian needs generated by conflict, drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agriculture and Economic Growth

Socioeconomic and political crises stemming from the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 have disrupted livelihoods and triggered widespread food insecurity. Afghan women have been especially hard hit by loss of employment opportunities and income as the Taliban continues to restrict women’s participation in the public sphere. 

Economic conditions are compounded by climate change, resulting in repeated cycles of flood and drought. Farmers are abandoning non-productive, water-starved land and moving into urban areas as changing precipitation and rainfall patterns threaten livelihoods.

In response to these challenges, USAID agriculture programs have pivoted to focus on the domestic economy, supporting food production, including staple crops such as wheat, legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables, as well as continuing to support the livestock and dairy sectors. Our programs are also helping Afghans find meaningful jobs, particularly through apprenticeships in the carpet, precious stones and jewelry, marble and granite, cashmere, and saffron industries, helping Afghans earn an income and provide for their families. 

USAID also works with Afghan agribusinesses, providing feed, seed, fertilizer, equipment, and technical assistance to help keep farms and businesses operating and staff employed. Activities range from cash-for-work activities for small scale irrigation improvements, rehabilitating orchards, improvements in packaging, post-harvest handling and storage, and planting kitchen gardens to improve household nutrition and food security. 

Education, Health, Water and Sanitation

Afghanistan’s education, health, and water and sanitation sectors are increasingly fragile and donor dependent, with Afghan women and girls facing disproportionately limited access to these essential services. The Taliban-imposed ban on girls’ secondary education is one of many examples that demonstrates how the Taliban is holding Afghanistan back and repressing Afghan women and girls. 

USAID programs improve access to and quality of essential services through local, community-based, and private sector service providers. Despite ongoing challenges, USAID’s education assistance is focused on increasing access to quality education, particularly for young women and girls; strengthening academic instruction and learning; and improving the safety and wellbeing of educators and students. 

Owing in part to a lack of clean water, and exacerbated by cascading crises including the climate crisis, Afghans face increased risk of disease and poor health. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), most Afghans drink unsafe water that is often contaminated by sewage and deadly pathogens. Access to safe sanitation and hygiene, including basic toilets and handwashing supplies, is similarly limited. USAID is helping to avert a deeper health catastrophe by improving Afghans’ access to clean water, especially for rural communities. 

Our assistance includes a focus on maternal and child health, COVID-19 prevention and response, support for national disease surveillance and rapid response, procurement of essential healthcare supplies and commodities, and private sector engagement. We also work with global partners in areas such as tuberculosis—Afghanistan is a priority country under the U.S. government’s Global Tuberculosis Strategy as well as the Global Fund—immunizations, and water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Democracy, Gender, and Human Rights

The people of Afghanistan live under expanding authoritarianism, growing restrictions to their human rights, and increasing efforts to erase women from society. Gender equality and women’s empowerment, however, are central to USAID programming. USAID focuses on strengthening civil society and protecting the human rights of all Afghans, particularly those of women and girls, and other marginalized people. 

The Taliban have sharply restricted fundamental human rights for women and girls. Women are often forced to stay home and have increasingly been prevented from working. In most provinces, girls are not permitted to attend school beyond the sixth grade and women attending higher education institutions face significant harassment and violence. Women human rights defenders and journalists face constant threats and the space for women-led civil society organizations to freely and independently operate is shrinking.

In response, USAID is working to increase Afghan women and girls’ access to social protection services; provide resources and support for women-led civil society organizations working to advance women's rights in Afghanistan; and increase women’s economic empowerment through skills and business development training and entrepreneurship support. USAID is also working to improve access to education for all Afghans, including women and girls.