Life and Death: NGO access to financial services in Afghanistan

Moret, E.
Publication language
Date published
27 Jan 2022
Research, reports and studies

Transferring funds into, and within, Afghanistan has become a major challenge for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), since the Taliban’s return to power on 15 August 2021. A combination of international and domestic factors, including a halt in most international funding, paralysis of the Afghan Central Bank, capital controls and confusion over permissible activities under sanctions has resulted in multiple, overlapping economic crises in the country (fiscal, financial, trade; liquidity); high inflation, and risk of banking sector and public health sector collapse.

The situation has severely curtailed the access of local, national and international NGO’s to physical cash which is importance in humanitarian programming in the country.  Cumulatively, the situation presents significant barriers to NGOs’ ability to respond at an appropriate scale and speed to urgent, and mounting, humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.

This report: 

  • maps out available payment channels for transferring humanitarian funds into, and around, Afghanistan for NGO use
  • explores the extent to which each of these channels allows for access to physical cash required to carry out humanitarian operations to scale in the country
  • seeks to ascertain how such transactions can be scaled up and safeguarded in light of the absence of a fully functional central bank and severely hindered trade
  • examines associated risks (domestic, regional and international) of each channel, as well as questions of reliability, cost and volume capacity
  • summarises some of the ongoing global initiatives seeking ways to inject liquidity and physical cash into Afghanistan for use in humanitarian operations


The report concludes with a set of recommendations for the US Treasury, donor governments, the UN and NGOs.