Ballarat locals band together to send emergency food aid to Afghan families

Afghan families struggling since the return of the Taliban are receiving a lifeline from the Victorian city of Ballarat.

Ballarat Afghan Action Group (BAAG) has been sending food packages — which contain three months' worth of staples such as flour, lentils, sugar, and rice — to families in the Taliban-held city of Ghazni since December.

This week, 14 households will receive the parcels from BAAG, bringing the total number of families that have received the food aid to almost 150.

The organisation's interim chair David McPhail said the group was established last November, following the fall of Kabul in August.

In addition to the Taliban's takeover of the country, a brutal winter was looming and rapid action was needed to help families survive, Mr McPhail said.

Thanks to an "extraordinary response" from BAAG members and their connections, $12,000 in donations was raised quickly, but getting the money to Afghanistan and purchasing supplies presented a major challenge for the group.

"So we decided to use brokers from this end, and brokers from that end."

Once the transfer was received, food was purchased locally and distributed to the families.

The process was recorded through photographs and video and sent to BAAG as proof.

Mr McPhail said Ballarat's Hazara community, which primarily originates from the Hazarajat region in central Afghanistan, told him the impact of the food aid had been significant.

While winter is over in Afghanistan, Mr McPhail said the country remained in political and economic turmoil.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, as much as 97 per cent of Afghanistan's population could be living below the poverty line by mid-2022.

"The situation is not good," Mr McPhail said.

"It's very seriously dangerous for minority groups, Hazaras, and single women.

"Women are required to marry Taliban soldiers in many circumstances.

"Most girls aren't allowed to go to school after grade six or, in some cases, at all."

With food aid still desperately needed, Mr McPhail said the group would continue to meet monthly with their Ghazni connections to determine what the most effective plan of action was.

"Ballarat has the advantage of having people well-connected to Afghanistan," he said.

"We're in a strong position [to help]."