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Gandhara Briefing: Ukraine War, Afghan Humanitarian Crisis

A nurse takes care of a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Malalai Maternity hospital in Kabul.
A nurse takes care of a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Malalai Maternity hospital in Kabul.

By Abubakar Siddique

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If you’re new to the newsletter or haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.

Afghans flee Russia's war in Ukraine

I recap Radio Azadi's reporting about desperate Afghans trying to escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine alongside the 1 million Ukrainians fleeing the country.

Over the past three decades, thousands of Afghans have fled to Ukraine to escape perpetual conflict in their country; now they find themselves trying to escape the ongoing Russian bombing of major Ukrainian cities.

"The situation here is horrible," said Abdul Rab Bayani, who arrived in Kyiv on a Ukrainian military plane to escape the Taliban seizure of power in August. "We are afraid that if the fighting intensifies we will not be able to contact anyone."

Naveen, an Afghan immigrant, has lived in the seaport city of Odesa for six years. He fled the outbreak of war in Ukraine to neighboring Romania, from where he moved further west into Hungary. But the police there forced him back into Romania, highlighting that much of Europe is unwilling to accept non-Ukrainian immigrants and refugees. "I don't know where to go from here," he said of his desperate situation.

Kabir Nazari, a former Afghan police officer, made it to Berlin this week after awaiting approval of his asylum application for six months. "We were all miserable, whether Afghan refugees or Ukrainians," he said of the dangerous two-day journey he made out of Kyiv by hitchhiking, train, and bus.

Attention shifting away from Afghan crisis

I write about how the mushrooming humanitarian crises in Ukraine is diverting international attention away from Afghanistan, where the majority of the population faces starvation following an economic and government collapse after the Taliban takeover.

Aid workers in the country warn that neglecting the realities in Afghanistan will exacerbate the crisis there, with Afghans already reeling from hunger, unemployment, and dire economic prospects in one of the poorest countries in the world.

"We also see urgent funding appeals for support to Ukraine, which absolutely needs that support, but Afghanistan's needs are no less," Sam Mort the UNICEF spokeswoman, told me.

Hameed Hakimi, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, says the Taliban is unable to respond quickly to the Afghan people's needs or to keep the world's focus on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. "The Taliban's regime remains unrecognized internationally and therefore there is an absence of official Afghan lobbying for aid to the Afghan people," he argued.

I hope you found this week’s newsletter useful, and I encourage you to forward it to your colleagues.

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Abubakar Siddique
Twitter: @sid_abu

P.S.: You can always reach us at

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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