Omphalos, in partnership with the Human First Coalition, have been working tirelessly to evacuate American citizens and our Afghan allies following the Taliban’s takeover.
Omphalos is a 501c3 organization
Using partners on the ground, these two organizations provide safe houses for evacuees awaiting extraction and protected transportation to a destination outside of Afghanistan. It also acts as a coordination hub for other organizations working on the same problem set.
On August 15, twenty years after being driven out by the US-led offensive, the Taliban marched into Kabul, completing their rapid conquest of most of Afghanistan’s major cities in just 10 days. Western countries were caught completely off guard, with most having estimated that it would take the Taliban months to achieve this victory. Consequently, few had begun any significant evacuation of their own citizens or processed the necessary visas for Afghan allies and other vulnerable persons. With the United States determined to abide by its original commitment to pull all of its troops out by August 31, Western countries began a massive evacuation effort. Over the course of the next two weeks, the United States evacuated1 approximately 116,000 people via the Kabul airport. For many, however, the US airlift was not a possibility, forcing them to rely on third parties to get them to safety.
Human First has been working on the evacuation since August 16. We were able to dispatch over 20,000 requests for safe transit, harbor and medical treatment. To date, we have successfully moved over 800 American citizens, legal permanent residents, special immigrant visa (SIV) holders, and Afghan citizens out of the country and facilitated transportation for thousands of others. Despite this work and the heroic efforts of other organizations, Human First still has approximately 3,500 people in safe houses or seeking a safe house in Kabul or Mazar-e-Sharif while they await evacuation. These are predominantly people who do not have approved immigrant visas, meaning that they will be evacuated after the American citizens and current visa holders. If transport options come online as anticipated, we estimate that it will take approximately one month to evacuate this group.
We have been providing information to the right people at the right time.
We automated the SIV paperwork process for SIV applicants.
Provided information to USG, specifically DoD Joint Staff, DoD JSOC, DoS, USD(I) and other special mission units on the ground.
Ran a 24/7 hotline to field requests for medical, safe transit, safe harbor, and SIV applicant paperwork questions.
Served as a continuity organization between US Advocates and those AFG wanted to evacuate safely.
Our Three Objectives
Provide safe accommodations for vulnerable people awaiting evacuation.
Human First is currently providing 240 secured, furnished rooms in Kabul that include meals, housekeeping, and laundry to minimize the number of times evacuees must leave the premises. Families stay together in a single room, with an average family size of about 10 people. In addition, Human First is negotiating an additional 110 rooms, split between Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, to accommodate people who are on our waiting list.
Coordinate evacuee movements.
Human First has a manager, facilitators, dispatchers, and medics on the ground who provide real-time information and coordinate evacuees’ care and movements with the control teams in Washington, DC and Omaha, Nebraska.
Provide transportation to and from the safe houses.
Human First has acquired 30 vehicles, with two drivers per vehicle and fuel for transport to and from the safe houses. The vehicles represent a one-time, upfront cost, while fuel costs will be ongoing.
One-month timeframe from September 1 to 30, 2021, with plans to extend and adapt as needed.
Budget - $5,957,646.40
The total estimated cost to maintain the safe houses is $5,957,646.40, which represents approximately $1,700 per person for the month. Please note that while we have done our best to negotiate prices in advance to provide high fidelity estimates, the economy in Afghanistan is changing rapidly, causing severe price fluctuations on some items.
It is incredible what a few people with the tenacity to keep going can do to change the course of history. The last two weeks included gut wrenching, painful experiences – like the first attack at the airport. There were also incredible good-news stories of families our team was able to follow all the way to the United States. From saving a group of religious minority women, to coaching someone to give birth and receive medical care, to safely getting orphans out of harm's way. All of the people within our team to date have volunteered 100% of their time, space and resources to help ensure the safety and security of as many people as possible. This is truly magical - but going forward we need financial support to continue. We never anticipated what started as a few friends helping friends, would turn into one of the most effective crisis-response teams in the country with remote support Stateside.
We will leave you with this inspired by conversations with volunteers as well as Maya Angelou – “Love, hope and compassion are the greatest gifts of all. But courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”