The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months due to the conflict with the political power shift, COVID-19, and drought. Even at the onset of 2021, nearly 10 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance. Since May, the number of internally displaced more than doubled to over 570,000 people, nearly 60 percent of whom are children. Drought was officially declared in June and the food security situation remains precarious with 3.5 million people in the emergency level of food insecurity (IPC 4). A staggering 1 in 2 children under five are expected to be acutely malnourished in 2021. Violence continues to disproportionately impact children and women, who represent 46 per cent of all civilian casualties recorded by June 2021.
UNICEF remains at the forefront of the humanitarian response and continues to reach vulnerable children and families affected by multiple shocks with life-saving services.
To respond to the increased humanitarian needs, UNICEF is revising its funding asks to US$192 million.
KEY PLANNED TARGETS
500,000 children admitted for treatment for severe acute malnutrition
568,000 children vaccinated against measles
500,000 people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water
858,000 children accessing educational services
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Afghanistan has always been one of the most dangerous places to be a child. But in recent weeks, the conflict has entered a new, deadlier and more destructive phase. Since the end of May, the number of people displaced because of conflict more than doubled, reaching over 550,000, more than half of them children. While COVID-19 cases have dropped during the third-wave, concern still remains with less than 1.3 million people vaccinated and the limited capacity of the health system. The first half of 2021 has also seen an exponential increase of measles cases in 321 districts, affecting 46,873 children, with 49 deaths.
Food insecurity remains alarmingly high in Afghanistan. With high levels of food and water scarcity across 25 provinces, a drought emergency was declared on 22 June 2021. Some 30 per cent of the population is facing crisis and worse levels of food insecurity with 3.5 million people at IPC 4. COVID-19 has also led to a 13 per cent increase in the estimated number of children under 5 who are severely malnourished. Drought has further exacerbated the situation with around 1 million children estimated to suffer from SAM in 2021. Drought also increases risk of other disease outbreaks with 81 per cent of children under five in the drought-affected areas having diarrheal diseases.
Over 4.2 million children – 60 per cent girls – were already out of school, including many in hard to reach areas. School closures because of COVID-19 measures added over 9.5 million students who are normally enrolled in formal schools, as well as 500,000 enrolled in community-based education, to the out-of-school figure. In addition, over 35 per cent of schools and health facilities lack reliable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.
The deteriorating crisis, conflict, and COVID-19 pandemic have heightened underlying protection vulnerabilities. Grave violations are increasing, especially the recruitment of children by armed forces and groups. Many other children are traumatized after witnessing atrocities committed against loved ones. Ongoing conflict and increased access restrictions are likely to result in increased negative coping mechanisms (including child marriage) amongst communities, particularly in the border areas. Risk of explosive ordnances also remains high. Even prior to 2021, child casualties due to explosive ordnances constituted over 80 per cent of all cases. With the fast-approaching winter, the need to preposition and distribute non-food items is extremely time-critical to ensure that children do not suffer from the consequences of harsh winter conditions.