How you can help Afghan civilians now, according to experts

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Afghan civilians fled their homes hoping to be evacuated over the weekend, as the Taliban retook several major cities, including the capital city of Kabul.

Taliban militants reclaimed control of several major cities in Afghanistan over the weekend, including the capital city of Kabul, plunging the nation further into turmoil.

Afghan civilians were forcibly displaced from their homes, joining an already millions-large refugee community, while visceral scenes of residents clinging to American military aircraft, desperate to be evacuated, underscored the anxiety sweeping the nation.

Human rights advocates fear what will happen next, now that the Taliban, the extremist militant group that ruled much of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when they were driven from power during the U.S. military invasion, has recaptured most of the country. Activists, journalists, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and others' lives are in peril; Many women, largely confined to their homes under Taliban rule, anticipate a severe rollback of their rights.

While politicians and governments spar over what should be done and scramble to pin blame, a number of nonprofits and human rights groups have rushed in to assist Afghan civilians left stranded amid the chaos.

"We have a moral obligation to help and protect the humanitarian needs of the people who have suffered at the hands of conflict and violence for so long," Sharif Aly, CEO of Islamic Relief, an international aid agency that’s been on the ground in Afghanistan for two decades, told The American Independent Foundation.

Americans feeling powerless to help in the face of such tumult can also find ways to assist, he said.

Donate to Afghan charities and NGOs

There are myriad organizations offering everything from medical services to legal aid to Afghans.

When selecting a charity, Aly emphasized that people should look to organizations that have a proven track record in Afghanistan.

"A charity is not going to be able to set up shop in Afghanistan if they haven't done it before," Aly, whose organization is working to provide emergency shelter, food, water, cooking supplies and hygiene kits for those displaced within the country, said. "[It is] time to look for a trusted source that has been doing it for years."

Below are a list of charities currently soliciting donations to aid Afghans:

The International Rescue Committee is raising funds for lifesaving aid, emergency cash assistance, and protection services for internally displaced people in Kabul.

The International Refugee Assistance Project provides free resources on refugee resettlement, including a chatbot where people can request help through Facebook messenger and Telegram.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has treated more than 4,000 people wounded during escalating fighting in the month of August so far.

Save the Children works to improve children's physical and emotional health, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, education, protection, food security and livelihoods for the almost 80,000 children who have been displaced in the past two months.

Doctors Without Borders conducted over 100,000 emergency room consultations for Afghans last year and continues to provide medical services for those in need. The group said Sunday it was "continuing to run medical activities in all five of its projects in Herat, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz and Lashkar Gah," despite the fighting.

Islamic Relief is coordinating efforts for emergency shelter, food, water, cooking supplies and hygiene kits for displaced families.

Afghanaid is sending emergency support including kitchen kits so families can cook and store food.

Women for Afghan Women is the largest women's organization in the country, comprised of mostly Afghan and Muslim individuals. Donations help keep clients and staff safe while providing emergency support for others.

Muslim Aid is providing warm meals and hygiene supplies to refugees.

Helping Hand for Relief and Development is providing cooked meals, clean water, shelter provisions, medical assistance and sanitation for internally displaced people in Kabul.

Afghan Journalists Safety Committee is protecting reporters with shelter and safehouses while trying to keep independent media outlets operating.

UNHCR is providing food, shelter provisions, clean water, and medicine to displaced Afghan families.

Emergency is treating Afghan patients at two surgical centers and 44 first aid posts.

The Afghan-American Women’s Association is supporting Afghan refugees who arrive in the United States with resettlement services as well as aiding displacement camps in Kabul.

Put pressure on Congress

Americans unable to give funds can write to or call their elected officials to urge the rapid resettlement of Afghan refugees in the United States, experts say.

Some advocacy groups have created documents with scripts and lawmakers' contact information to streamline the process.

"We need the United States government to ensure Afghans are safely evacuated," Mariya Parodi, senior press officer with Amnesty International, said in an email.

"This includes journalists, women's activists and educators, Afghan NGO workers, human rights defenders, Afghans who provided services or assistance to the U.S. and other foreign governments in Afghanistan and whose numbers include civil engineers, interpreters, clerks, drivers, and numerous other individuals who have aided international powers either individually or on behalf of their employer."

Other things experts recommend people push their elected officials on include keeping the Kabul airport operational, expanding visa eligibility, expediting visa processing, and designating Afghans for temporary protected status so they do not face deportation once they arrive.

Give away your airline miles

Those looking to help may also donate their frequent flier miles and credit card points to Miles4Migrants, a 501c3 charity that helps relocate refugees and asylum seekers, and reunites them with family members.

The organization has flown more than 5,000 people from nearly 80 countries of origin since its inception in 2018.

Currently, Miles4Migrants says Chase, Amex, and Air Canada miles and points are in the highest demand to relocate Afghan families.

Volunteer your time

Some groups are calling for volunteers to lend their time as Afghan refugees begin to make their way to the United States.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, a refugee resettlement organization, wants volunteers in Seattle, Tacoma, Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Houston and Fort Worth to help with services like airport pick-ups, apartment hosting, meal-sharing, furniture donations, and storage space.

Church World Service, another faith-based organization that provide refugee assistance, is asking for volunteers to sponsor new Afghan families with housing, employment and social services.

Advocates have issued similar calls for U.S.-based attorneys who can take on Afghan refugees as pro bono clients and assist with immigration.

Share information from trusted sources

While sharing information online is important to mobilize support for Afghan refugees, experts say social media users should vet their info carefully, look to reliable sources, and avoid reposting misinformation.

"If you are not an expert on Afghanistan, have not been keeping up with what has been occurring, and are not directly impacted by what is happening don't share your unsolicited opinions and takes," Bushra Ebadi, a global affairs expert and former UNESCO youth ambassador, tweeted. "Instead follow and amplify the voices, work, and initiatives of Afghan activists, leaders, journalists, artists, and researchers."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.