The Taliban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul on 15 August and consolidated control over nearly all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces following a rapid military offensive that started at the beginning of May. Fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan government forces escalated after the April announcement that US and NATO troops would withdraw from Afghanistan. Following the partial withdrawal of the troops, the Taliban rapidly overran the majority of Afghanistan’s provinces in the first half of August. This report aims to provide an overview of the recent developments related to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan against the key trends in conflict and humanitarian needs reported in 2021.
**HUMANITARIAN IMPACT The full impact of the recent takeover of power by the Taliban on humanitarian needs is not yet clear. Levels of conflict, civilian casualties, and displacement reported in Afghanistan in 2021 have been considerably higher than in recent years, which is likely to drive an increase in humanitarian needs.
The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan has already increased significantly in the past 18 months, reaching over 18 million people in need and reversing the decreasing trend reported since 2014. The main trends that are expected to drive humanitarian needs in the coming months are:
• The intensification of conflict over the past months and the volatile security situation have resulted in many civilian casualties. Over 3,700 civilian casualties have been reported between the beginning of May and mid-August as a result of rapid conflict escalation between the Taliban and Afghan armed forces.
• Internal displacement has increased significantly. More than 400,000 people were registered as newly displaced since the beginning of May, bringing the total number of people displaced by conflict in Afghanistan in 2021 to over 550,000.
With the country under fragmented Taliban authority, it is likely that the provision of basic services will be disrupted and prices of basic commodities will increase. Key priorities for the response are likely to be:
• Health: months of violence resulted in disruptions to health services and increased health needs among injured and displaced people. 14.5 million people (about 33% of the population) were in need of health assistance before the recent escalation.
• Food: the combined effects of drought, the coronavirus pandemic, conflict escalation, and humanitarian access constraints after the change of power may further worsen the food security situation in the country. 9.1 million people were already projected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher levels of acute food insecurity between June–November 2021.
• Protection: increasing protection concerns have been emerging since May, including targeted killings, enforced disappearances, violence against women and children, forced marriages, access and mobility constraints, and attacks on civilian infrastructure, including homes, schools, and health clinics. 12.8 million people were estimated to be in need of protection assistance at the beginning of 2021.
HUMANITARIAN ACCESS CONSTRAINTS
After the rapid takeover of power by the Taliban, humanitarian access constraints are extremely high, and gaps in assistance may lead to further deterioration of humanitarian needs. Humanitarian organisations are likely to pause or delay operations to ensure staff safety, obtain access approvals from the Taliban, and reassess priorities. While the Taliban have made official statements about welcoming humanitarian presence and operations, several factors are likely to hamper humanitarian activities, including uncertain access conditions, existing risks around violence against humanitarians, lack of available information, concerns around data collection, and interference in humanitarian operations.
Recent developments add to a number of pre-existing crises, including drought, flooding, and COVID-19. Coupled with an economic downturn in the country, this pushed the health system to the brink and severely depleted people’s mechanisms to cope with increasing needs.