Warm-up: Students discuss their understanding of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Introducing the Lesson: Students will watch, examine, and discuss a series of short videos from PBS NewsHour in which journalist Jane Ferguson reports from Kabul as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan and the Taliban takes control. In exploring this reporting, students will examine factors that led to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Analyzing the Reporting: Comprehension and discussion questions for PBS NewsHour video segments in which Jane Ferguson reports from Kabul as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan and the Taliban takes control.
- Research and presentation on a humanitarian organization
- Letter writing
- Art for change
- Research project
Students will be able to...
- Determine central ideas of video reporting on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
- Identify and examine the challenges in Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict
- Examine the relationship between conflict and migration
- Use research, writing, and art skills to engage with the reporting in extension activities
Take a moment to answer the following questions:
- What, if anything, have you heard about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan?
- Why are many people trying to leave Afghanistan?
- How is the United States connected to this humanitarian crisis?
- What are the effects of war/conflict on individuals? On their communities and regions?
Introducing the Lesson:
Nearly 20 years after the United States invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban retook control of the country on August 15, 2021. Following the Taliban takeover, an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops, years of war, a drought, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the discontinuation of financial assistance, humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan are rapidly deteriorating. The United Nations warns that nearly 23 million people—approximately 55% of Afghanistan's population—are facing extreme levels of hunger, with nearly nine million people at risk of famine. UNICEF estimates that one in two children under the age of five will be acutely malnourished in 2022 due to the food crisis and poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
In this lesson, students will watch, examine, and discuss a series of short videos from PBS NewsHour in which journalist Jane Ferguson reports from Kabul as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan and the Taliban takes control. In exploring this reporting, students will examine factors that led to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Introducing the Reporting:
In these PBS NewsHour segments, Jane Ferguson reports from Kabul as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan and the Taliban takes control. These videos detail the worsening humanitarian and economic problems in Afghanistan.
Some useful vocabulary for this lesson:
- Humanitarian crisis/emergency
- Aid organization
- Afghan Special Immigrant Visa
Analyzing the Reporting:
Watch the video, then respond to the comprehension questions. Teachers may choose to have students watch one or more videos as a whole group, or have students break into small groups to watch different videos.
Comprehension Questions: "Inside the Desperate, Dangerous Scramble To Evacuate Kabul as Taliban Seize Control"
- Who is in power in Afghanistan?
- For how many years did the U.S. military occupy Afghanistan before withdrawing?
- According to the video, why were so many people rushing to get out of Afghanistan?
- Who/what group of people were prioritized in evacuation efforts?
- According to the video, what were some of the frustrations surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan? Frustrations from the general public in the U.S and Afghanistan.
Comprehension Questions: "Afghan Children Get Left Behind, Go Missing Amid Chaos At Kabul’s Airport"
- Who are special immigrant visas meant for?
- Do U.S. soldiers at the airport have an understanding of what qualifies someone to evacuate?
- What kind of screening do Afghan refugees have to undergo before they arrive in the U.S?
- What were the conditions like at Kabul’s airport?
- Amidst the chaos and confusion at Kabul’s airport, who in particular was vulnerable?
- How did American soldiers tell apart kids whose parents had boarded planes to the U.S.?
Comprehension Questions: "Dwindling Aid, Crumbling Economy and ISIS add to Afghans’ Hardships Under Taliban Rule"
- What are the conditions like in the few remaining children's wards operating in Afghanistan?
- What agency is on the ground delivering aid to Afghans?
- According to the video, how much of the Afghan population is in need of food assistance?
- How much of Afghanistan's foreign assets have been frozen by the U.S. government? Why are they frozen?
- According to David Beasley, the Executive Director for the UN World Food Program, what will happen if the U.S. government does not unfreeze funds?
- On top of the financial crisis, what else is contributing to rising food insecurity?
- According to Beasley, how much of Afghanistan's economy is based upon outside funding?
- After surviving four decades of continuous conflict, what could take more lives than war ever did?
These questions can be explored as part of whole class discussions, small group discussions, or individual reflections. They can be answered after watching any one or more of the videos.
- What new information did you learn from the video(s) that you did not know before? Did anything surprise you?
- Has this story challenged, expanded, or reinforced any of your own ideas relating to the crisis in Afghanistan? If so, how?
- Who pays for the wars countries are involved in, and how?
- What are the effects of war/conflict on individuals? On their communities and regions?
- Should the United States be required to grant asylum to Afghan refugees? If yes, why and under what circumstances? If no, why not?
- What is the United States government’s responsibility toward Afghanistan and its people? Why? What actions should the government take as a result?
Research and presentation on a humanitarian organization: Research a humanitarian organization working and providing aid in Afghanistan. If possible, reach out and interview a representative of the organization. Put together a presentation to share with the class. Address the following questions in your presentation:
- What is their mission?
- What support are they providing?
- What solutions, actions, or policies are they promoting?
Here are some organizations that you could research:
- International Rescue Committee
- Norwegian Refugee Council
- United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund
- Islamic Relief Worldwide
- Doctors Without Borders
Letter Writing: Make your voice heard and influence representatives. Write a letter to a representative of your choice expressing your concern about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Address one or more of the following in your letter:
- What role, if any, do you think the U.S. should play in Afghanistan after its withdrawal?
- What can your state/city/community do to support Afghans, locally and/or internationally?
Some ideas for who you could address in your letter include...
- Local level: City Council member, mayor
- State level: State Senator, governor
- National level: Congressional representative, U.S. Senator
Click here to explore examples of persuasive letters written by other students.
Art for Change: Art can be used as an instrument to inspire social and political change. With this in mind, create a piece of art that calls attention to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. You can draw, paint, write a poem, choreograph a dance, or use photography to inspire action. You may choose to focus on, criticize, depict, or explain a particular aspect of this crisis. For example, you can create a drawing that illustrates the effects of this conflict on women in particular. Consider sharing your work on social media or display it at school to raise awareness.
Research Project: In the reporting, you saw as Afghans desperately tried to flee their country. Research U.S refugee policies. Address the following questions in a short essay (about two pages):
- What U.S. agency decides how many refugees are accepted?
- How many refugees have been admitted so far in 2021?
- What countries host/welcome the most Afghan refugees?
- Are there any policy changes the U.S. should adopt? Why or why not?
Common Core Standards:
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
Explore the latest stories by Pulitzer Center journalists currently on the ground or recently evacuated from Afghanistan:
Afghanistan: After the Americans: For PBS NewsHour and NPR, Jane Ferguson covers current events in Kabul as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan and the Taliban seize control of the country.
The Last Chapter of War: A group of journalists covers a range of stories surround the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, including the Biden Administration’s response, the hopes and fears of women and girls, and the asylum seeking process.
More underreported stories and creative projects from Afghanistan:
Afghanistan by Choice: This short documentary highlights the voices of Afghans in 2016 making the difficult decision between leaving or staying in a precarious Kabul.
Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry: This multimedia project showcases poems of protest, anger, and joy by Afghan women.
Afghanistan: Tanks, Bazaars and Wheelchair Basketball: These documentary paintings capture scenes from everyday life in 2015 Kabul to highlight the quiet moments beyond the headlines.
Confronting the Struggle of Afghanistan's War Widows: This photo story documents the lives of the 2.5 million widows of war living in Afghanistan in 2015.