Programme areas and target groups

  • Northern Afghanistan: Jawzjan, Sar-e Pul and Faryab provinces
  • Central Afghanistan: Kabul area and Nangarhar & Nuristan provinces
  • Southern Afghanistan: Uruzgan provinc

We work with vulnerable people living in areas affected by natural disasters, conflict and COVID-19.

The sectors ZOA Afghanistan works in are:

  • Food security & Livelihoods
  • WASH
  • Peacebuilding
  • Shelter

What we do

Since its independence in 1919, Afghanistan enjoyed years of relative stability, albeit rather short lived as demonstrated by Afghanistan’s more recent history of decades of instability and conflict. With the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1979–1989, years of civil war (1990–1996), and the emergence of the Taliban in 1994, the country deteriorated rapidly. While the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001 brought relative stability and accelerated development, for the past two decades Afghanistan continues to suffer from widespread conflict, crime, political instability and terrorism. Abject poverty has exacerbated these issues, as Afghanistan is among the poorest countries in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerates an economic downturn, which particularly affects the informal sector.

Self Help Groups for women

ZOA is working with more than 170 Women Self Help Groups (SHG) with 15-20 members each. The women meet weekly to discuss family and community issues, to contribute to a group saving scheme, and draw individual loans for income generating activities. The groups are strengthened in order to be established as recognized Civil society Organizations (CSO). These women-led CSOs are the voice of women living in a vulnerable position within their own local community. Vocational and small scale business training enables SHG members to contribute to the household income. Gender-based violence and child protection are discussed in group-meetings. Clusters of several SHGs band together to plan and address discrimination and human rights violations but also to promote market linkages.

Having enough to eat  

People in Afghanistan regularly face alarming situations of food insecurity. This is caused by the lingering impact of the severe drought in 2018,  which still decreases agricultural and livestock productivity. Pre-harvest seasons are particularly difficult.

The most vulnerable community members are given priority in our food security projects: widows, elderly people and orphans who run their own household.

In addition, increased conflict leads to a situation where farmers don’t have access to their agricultural lands for planting and harvesting at the right time. When they are able to harvest, they  are often forced to pay illegal taxes to armed opposition groups, which further depletes their income. The coronavirus pandemic with rising food prices and movement restrictions pushes many Afghans even deeper  into poverty and dramatically increases the food insecurity in the country.

ZOA Afghanistan is addressing food insecurity in rural and urban areas for more than 5000 households. Working through and with local Community Development Councils and government line agencies is always the starting point. The most vulnerable community members are given priority, they receive a voucher with clear instructions, and they can exchange the voucher at the local vendor for a variety of food items which will assist the family to survive and overcome the hunger gap.

A home for displaced people

Uruzgan is a hard to reach province in southern Afghanistan.  Armed opposition groups and  national and international armed forces are fighting each other for territorial gains. Over the last five years the severity of the conflict increased dramatically, impacting almost all villages in the province. Innocent villagers are caught in the crossfire and flee without any belongings to the nearest district or provincial capital, where they erect makeshift mud-brick shelters with poor roofing or find a place with their friends or relatives. Oftentimes 5-8 family members live in just one tiny room. In such a situation dignified and healthy living is impossible. How can these displaced household members protect themselves against the corona virus living in such dire circumstances?

In the year 2020 ZOA is working together with more than 400 displaced families to enlarge and improve their shelters, providing some privacy. This is especially important for women and adolescent girls. The role of the ZOA project staff is to provide phased cash inputs, training and support for the displaced community members until they have their newly furbished home, and are able to live a dignified life.  In addition, community members receive information on preventative measures to avoid the COVID-19 virus. Throughout projects community members receive additional information on protection issues, such as how to  protect women, adolescent girls and children from different forms of violence, discrimination, exploitation and neglect.

Safe and clean water

43% of Afghanistan’s rural population has no access to functional water sources.  This figure is significantly higher among displaced people living in hard to reach districts. For 57% of these displaced households the water points are too far to collect water to meet their daily demands. ZOA makes a difference providing around  3500 households  access to clean drinking water by building and rehabilitating 140 water points with the installation of hand pumps and latrines. For each water point a Water Management Committee is formed by male and female community members. These committees are responsible for the management of the water facilities but also play a part in building community cohesion.

Open defecation is widespread in Afghanistan, exacerbating the risk factors for diarrheal epidemics and other water borne disease outbreaks.

ZOA builds model latrines and enables community members to copy the model in the whole community. Locally recruited and trained hygiene promotors visit households to discuss  deep-seated cultural values promoting positive change  regarding hygiene; currently this involves addressing prejudices regarding COVID-19 and how to introduce mitigating measures. Each household is given a hygiene kit with soap and sanitary pads. Through safe access to clean water and hygiene measures communities are protected, healthier and more resilient.


With funding from

Up to 2019 ZOA Afghanistan received funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and OFDA. Other donors include AHF/UNOCHA, WFP, FOA and ZOA Netherlands.