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Afghanistan: Joint winterization strategy (July 24, 2020)

Shelter Cluster
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1 Executive Summary

After 40 years of continued crisis, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most complex humanitarian emergencies, driven by escalating conflict and natural disasters. These shocks and disruptions have depleted the resilience of displaced, host, and natural disaster affected populations. Even under normal circumstances, it is difficult for households to meet their basic needs. This vulnerability is further exasperated by the harsh winter conditions in Afghanistan.

Each year, freezing winter temperatures, especially in high altitude locations drive the need for provision of life saving winter assistance as the shelters do not protect against the cold and majority of the affected persons do not have the financial capability to purchase fuel and heaters to supplement their heating requirements.

The winter month’s season brings with it a rise in respiratory infection outbreaks. Trends from previous years (2015-2018) shows that there is a forty three percent (43%) increase in respiratory infection and hospital admissions from hypothermia in the months of November to February in comparison to the yearly average. In addition, the mortality rate from respiratory infections in children proportionally increases in the winter months. Furthermore, in many parts of the country, major roads are blocked during the winter months limiting the provision of timely and sufficient life-saving medical supplies to communities isolated during the winter months. Winter in Afghanistan is also a peak hunger period as it provides very limited opportunities to food production and income generation. The outbreak of COVID-19 has also touched every facet of life for the people of Afghanistan, in many cases exacerbating existing humanitarian and development needs. In 2020, the school year may also extend into winter to allow catch-up classes for those missed during COVID-19 lockdowns. This will mean additional resources to keep children warm at school.

The 2019-2020 winterization evaluation suggested few long-term impacts of winter assistance and a lack of overall resilience for households throughout the winter. Preventing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been woven into all cluster and sector approaches for 2020, including winterization responses, necessitating a reorientation of priorities and inclusion of host community population group. The strategy calls for a strong commitment on coordination within the inter cluster mechanisms to ensure an integrated response allowing affected populations address their cross-cutting needs and vulnerabilities associated with the winter season. Further, it calls for coordination and advocacy with donors, government authorities both at provincial and national level, the various line ministries involved in the implementation of response as well as in definition of strategic priorities, fund allocation schemes impacting the winter period.

2 Afghanistan Winterization Strategy

The winterization plan outlines intersectoral response efforts that complement the ICCT response to the winter season. Some are recurrent activities prioritized in past strategies that have been scaled-up or extended to new areas, others are entirely new activities that are necessary because of COVID-19. It is important to note that this plan is only for the winter season and is intended to be a living document that will inevitably need to be revised as the situation evolves.

An estimated 2.5 Million out of 4.85 Million beneficiaries (including those whose needs have been exacerbated due to COVID-19-related income loss will be reached through the intersectoral activities outlined in this plan. The strategy estimates that total funding requirement of $136.9 Million is needed to mobilize activities that contribute to save lives, prevent and mitigate protection risks (especially for the elderly, women and children) and assist to address the extreme weather-related causes in priority provinces.

The implementation of this plan will be carried out in support of the efforts by the Government of Afghanistan (especially the Ministry of MORR, ANDMA), with coordination support from OCHA and under guidance from all the relevant clusters.

The winterization strategy for 2020/21 considers the widespread impact of COVID-19. It remains possible that the situation could spiral due to a range of factors, including continued escalation in the number of COVID-19 cases, impact from regional and global responses to the pandemic and increased vulnerabilities due to economic downturn related to measures imposed to address COVID-19 outbreak.

Strategy Objectives

i. Save lives in the areas of highest need through rapid provision of a winter response package of relief items and services.
ii. Provide support for rapid recovery through targeted winterization assistance to support sectorial services such as Food, Nutrition, WASH, Protection, ESNFI, Health and Education.
iii. Ensure that protection concerns resulting from winter season, and from the combination of pre-existing needs such as floods, drought, and ongoing conflict, COVID-19 outbreak are mitigated or addressed.