The Solidarites logo, a symbol of its humanitarian efforts

Assignment #12

Hao, Lucy

The conflict in Afghanistan has created a chronic humanitarian crisis that has made it difficult for civilians to receive resources and aid. Currently, 31% of Afghans are malnourished, and more than 70% do not have access to drinking water or sanitary facilities. An absence of infrastructure and public service has caused a large number of Afghan refugees in neighboring countries, as well as a large number of displaced people in Afghanistan itself.  Mass urbanization has caused underdeveloped rural areas and crowded, unsanitary cities. Due to the struggle for power between opposition groups and the government, the welfare of the civilians is often forgotten, leaving the responsibility to provide for the people to the NGOs who operate in Afghanistan. One such NGO is Solidarites. According to its website, Solidarites’s mission is “provide aid as quickly and as efficiently as possible to endangered populations by meeting their vital needs: drinking water, food and shelter.” Its involvement in Afghanistan is mostly providing for the needs of the population, whether that be food, natural resources, sanitation, or shelter. However, with the new wave of tactics of the opposition groups and international military forces to gain favor of the people, it’s become more difficult for Solidarites to operate.

The presence of Solidarites in Afghanistan and other NGOs around the world previously dominated humanitarian work in conflict zones, but increasingly, international military forces like NATO and opposition groups like the Taliban have become involved in providing for the population. This is a result of the support and loyalty NGOs were able to gain from the civilians. Especially in Afghanistan, with the power struggle between the government and opposition groups, Solidarites’s work has indirectly and unintentionally created another battle ground for the fighting parties: the hearts of the people.  Moreover, with the increasing involvement of international military forces and the Taliban, it has become more and more difficult for Solidarites to remain neutral. Solidarites now chooses to maintain a low-key profile in order to avoid violence, as both sides are actively trying to undermine each other’s humanitarian missions. The interference of foreign militaries also has made it increasingly difficult for Solidarites to operate independently without the help of military action, a key component to its purpose. Because of their principles, Solidarites refuses to enter areas that have been cleared by international military forces, leaving large populations dependent on foreign militaries or the Taliban for aid. However, Solidarites combats these effects through their programs that teach the populations to be self-sufficient.

Solidarites’s focuses are responding to the needs of the population and also helping civilians become self-sufficient. It emphasizes management of natural resources. One of Solidarites’s programs teaches the rural Afghan population how to secure subsistence through agricultural development, in hopes that the population will eventually be independent of the groups and even Solidarites for food and resourves. Another program in urban Kabul has established water cleaning stations, garbage collection points, and community latrines in the city and also trained civilians to operate these systems. By teaching civilians to become more independent of external aid, Solidarites has begun to diminish the influence international military groups and opposition groups had on the population.