Afghanistan Complex Emergency Situation Report #01 (FY 2004)

Situation Report
Originally published


Note: This Situation Report updates USAID/OFDA Afghanistan Situation Report #4, dated March 13, 2003.


Two decades of war in Afghanistan, including a decade-long Soviet occupation and ensuing civil strife, left Afghanistan impoverished and mired in an extended humanitarian crisis. A devastating four-year regional drought compounded the crisis, drying up wells, parching agricultural land, killing off livestock, collapsing rural economies, and eventually exhausting the coping mechanisms of many ordinary Afghans, forcing them to leave their homes in search of food and water. International relief agencies, with support from the U.S. Government (USG), have long been active in providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, even during the restrictive years of the Taliban. USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) continues to assess the humanitarian needs of vulnerable Afghans and to monitor the relief programs of its implementing partners.

Numbers at a Glance
Total Population
CIA Factbook, July 2003
Internally Displaced Persons
UNHCR, September 2003
Voluntary Assisted Refugee Returns
(January-September 2003)
From Pakistan: 300,375
From Iran: 107,000
UNHCR, September 2003
Unassisted Refugee Returns (January-September 2003)
100,000 (approximate figure)
UNHCR, September 2003

FY 2003 USAID/OFDA Assistance to Afghanistan: $24,535,299

FY 2003 U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan: $161,850,999

Current Situation

NATO leadership of ISAF. On August 11, 2003, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formally assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Germany and the Netherlands. ISAF's 5,500 peace-keeping troops from 31 countries provide security in Kabul, and are distinct from the U.S.-led Coalition force in Afghanistan. In September, NATO began to consider increasing the size of the peace-keeping force and extending the mandate of ISAF beyond Kabul to restore stability to rural provinces. Expansion of ISAF will require approval from the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council, as well as from the governments that have contributed troops.

Voter registrations. In mid-August 2003, the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) began to register 10.5 million voters in anticipation of the June 2004 national elections. The 2001 Bonn Accords signed after the fall of the Taliban regime specify that Afghanistan will adopt a new constitution in October 2003 and elect a president in June 2004, thereby ending the country's transitional period of governance.

Postponement of the CLJ. On September 7, TISA President Hamid Karzai signed a decree postponing the session of the Constitutional Loya Jirga (CLJ) until December 2003 to allow more time for preparations. The delay is still within the guidelines established by the Bonn Accords for the CLJ, which is a representative meeting whose participants adopt and confer legitimacy on the constitution.

Establishment of PRTs. Coalition forces, in cooperation with the TISA, established the first Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Paktia Province in February 2002, and have since expanded PRTs to Balkh, Kunduz, and Bamiyan provinces. The purpose of the PRTs is to strengthen the presence of the central government, improve security, and facilitate the delivery of reconstruction assistance. Coalition forces aim to establish eight PRTs in cities throughout the country by the end of the year. Cities under consideration include Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, Bagram, and Ghazni.

Peace negotiations in Zabul. On September 1, the TISA began peace negotiations with Taliban officials in Atghar District of the southeastern province of Zabul, where fighting between Coalition and Taliban forces has occurred. Similar negotiations were also underway in other provincial districts of Zabul Province, including Shenkay, Syori, and Naubahar.

DDR initiatives. In a reform drive aimed at allowing for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, President Karzai announced key new appointments to the Defense Ministry on September 21. On the same day, the U.N. announced that disarmament could begin in late October with pilot programs to disarm 1,000 combatants each in the cities of Kunduz, Garez, and Mazar-i-Sharif. The disarmament program could extend to Kandahar and Kabul in early December 2003.


Ongoing security concerns. The security situation has recently deteriorated in many parts of the country due to factional fighting and an intensified campaign of attacks by al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters against Coalition troops, Afghan forces, and international and local relief agencies. The escalating violence in the country has undermined the reform process, impeded reconstruction efforts, threatened the upcoming elections, and hindered the delivery of relief assistance to many areas of the country. Sporadic attacks on civilians, local officials, and staff of relief agencies have increased, reflecting a pattern of shifting attacks away from Coalition bases and toward more vulnerable populations.

Increased violence in August. A spate of attacks in mid-August 2003 killed more than 90 people, mainly civilians, in a ten-day period throughout the country. On August 5, ten Afghan workers with local non-governmental organization (NGO) Coordination Humanitarian Assistance were severely beaten by gunmen who raided their compound in Maiwand District of Kandahar Province. On August 7, suspected fighters of the former Taliban regime killed six Afghan soldiers and a driver for NGO Mercy Corps in Helmand Province. On August 13, factional fighting and armed attacks killed more than 60 people, including two Red Crescent workers, 15 Afghan civilians and six TISA soldiers, in a day involving the most deaths in more than a year. Scores of other Afghan civilians and some fighters were reportedly killed in separate incidents elsewhere in the country throughout the month.

The violence in August prompted the U.N. to suspend travel by road across much of southern Afghanistan. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) suspended work in the eastern province of Kunar following a rocket attack close to its Asadabad office on August 10.

Ongoing violence in September. In mid-September 2003, humanitarian organizations warned that worsening security would hinder reconstruction work, with attacks against relief workers occurring once every two days, compared to the rate of one attack per month in 2002.

On September 8, unidentified gunmen killed four Afghans working for the NGO Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) in the province of Ghazni. On September 26, suspected Taliban fighters attacked staff members of the Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (VARA), a UNHCR partner agency, resulting in the death of one staff member. After the attack, Afghanistan NGO Security Offices (ANSO) advised 11 international humanitarian operations still underway in Afghanistan's southern regions to suspend work indefinitely. There were approximately 300 deaths in August and September, marking the most violent period since the Taliban fell in December 2001.

Suspension of activities. As of mid-September, U.N. missions to Uruzgan, Zabul, and parts of Hilmand Province, as well as all districts near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, remain suspended. In the east, missions to Kunar Province and several districts in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces are classified as high-risk areas and or/suspended. In the western region, armed robbers and highway bandits posed a considerable threat to U.N. road missions in Farah Province.

Violence along Kabul-Kandahar highway. The Kabul-Kandahar highway has become increasingly dangerous, and repeated attacks on relief and construction workers have suspended development work in some southern provinces. On September 1, unidentified assailants killed four people and attacked another four at a guesthouse of a U.S.-based company located on the Kabul-Kandahar highway.

Opening of police academy. On September 14, the U.N. announced a number of key initiatives aimed at building the country's capacity to maintain law and order. A new police academy is expected to open during November 2003 in Gardez, with others planned next year in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Bamyan, Jalalabad, and Herat.


Concern over human rights violations. In September 2003, both the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) expressed concern at increasing human rights violations throughout the country. According to a September report by UNAMA, human rights violations continue to occur due to the lack of adequate national security and law enforcement capacity, as well as the weakness of the justice system. The power of local chieftains in outlying provinces makes many Afghans vulnerable to threats such as extortion, displacement, and denial of access to land or water.

AIHRC indicated on September 16 that human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, rape, trafficking of women and children, destruction of public and private property, and arbitrary detention, have steadily increased during the past six months. Since June 2003, AIHRC has registered 634 human rights violations, the majority of which were related to the destruction of private homes, evictions, and forced occupations. AIHRC noted that some of the increase in reports of violations may be due to more effective monitoring.

IDPs and Refugees

Closure of refugee camps near Pakistan. On August 28, the TISA and the Government of Pakistan agreed to the gradual consolidation and closure of Afghan refugee camps near the Pakistani border. They also agreed to support refugee returnees by focusing aid on refugee communities in Afghanistan, including the Shalman camps near the Khyber Pass in northwestern Pakistan and camps around Chaman in Balochistan Province. Beginning in 2004, approximately 50,000 Afghan refugees inhabiting these camps will be asked to choose between returning to Afghanistan and relocating within Pakistan.

Afghan repatriations. UNHCR reported in mid-September that more than 475,000 Afghans have repatriated since the beginning of 2003, bringing the total number of returnees to more than 2.3 million since organized repatriation began in March 2002, with half of the refugees returning to urban areas. As of September 17, 300,375 Afghans repatriated from Pakistan and more than 175,000 from Iran. UNHCR indicated on September 2 that the number of refugees returning to Afghanistan has remained steady at more than 10,000 returnees per week for the past several weeks.

IDP movements. In the western province of Herat, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have assisted nearly 42,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their areas of origin since the beginning of 2003. The number of IDPs in Herat Province has fallen from 60,000 at the end of 2002 to 20,000. Ample rainfall throughout the year in many areas has resulted in some IDPs returning to communities that they had left after the persistent drought in 2001 and 2002. As of September 22, there were 210,000 IDPs in Afghanistan, according to UNHCR.

Displacement due to insecurity. UNHCR indicated that there have been many instances of displacement caused by local fighting and insecurity. On September 21, fighting in Daikundi District of Oruzgan Province displaced nearly 60 families. UNHCR also stated that displacement due to insecurity remains a problem in northern areas such as Faryab and Kapisa provinces, north of Kabul.


Diphtheria outbreak. Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) reported on August 14 that a diphtheria outbreak in Zhare Dasht IDP camp in Kandahar Province killed three people. MSF began a mass vaccination campaign targeting the camp's 40,000 residents.

Cholera and whooping cough outbreaks. On September 18, the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) reported 35 cases of cholera, including seven deaths, in the border district of Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province. According to WHO, the outbreak occurred on August 28 but has been contained. WHO also reported an outbreak of whooping cough in mid-August in the Ragh District of the northeastern province of Badakhshan, with 115 cases, including 12 deaths. WHO has sent emergency response teams to the area.

Water and Sanitation

Well chlorination campaign. In mid-August, the TISA, with support from the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), WHO, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), and NGO partners, began a chlorination campaign to disinfect 17,500 shallow wells in Kabul to reduce the incidence of diarrheal disease and other water-borne illnesses. There are an estimated 7,800 cases of diarrheal disease reported in Kabul every week, many of which are young children.


Rehabilitation of public buildings. In late August, UNHCR reached an agreement with the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, and the municipality of Kabul to rehabilitate up to 30 abandoned public buildings and build 1,500 housing units for returnees who cannot afford to construct their own homes. According to surveys, approximately 1,400 families are squatting in 43 locations throughout Kabul because they cannot afford to pay rent or build.

Forced evictions in Shirpur village. According to international news reports, one hundred armed police officers accompanied by bulldozers and trucks destroyed the homes of 30 families, approximately 250 people, in Shirpur village in Kabul during the week of September 8. Some reports indicate that the land is the property of the Ministry of Defense and is to be used for houses for government officials. According to UNAMA, there are reports that an additional 260 families in Shirpur village risk eviction over the next three months.

Lack of adequate housing and property rights. On September 12, the U.N. reported that the lack of adequate housing is becoming critical in rural and urban areas. The absence of housing and land rights has destabilized the housing situation in some parts of the country. The influx of returnees, in combination with the existing number of IDPs, has created an additional strain on the country.

Food Aid and Agriculture

Record harvest expected. WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report on August 14, 2003 indicating that Afghanistan's cereal crop will be the largest harvest on record, with an expected 5.37 million metric tons (MT) of cereals, including wheat, barley, maize, and milled rice. Afghanistan's cereal import requirement for the current marketing year (July 2003-June 2004) will be approximately 400,000 MT, which is nearly a quarter of the previous marketing year's import requirement. All import requirements in 2004 are expected to be covered commercially. Despite the expected record harvest, the drought persists in the southwest, and up to 20 percent of Afghans will continue to face food shortages and will depend on humanitarian food assistance, the report indicated.

Provision of food to ex-combatants. On September 10, WFP and Afghanistan's New Beginnings Program signed an agreement on implementation of a DDR project in Afghanistan. WFP will provide 12,600 MT of food for distribution to 100,000 demobilized beneficiaries as a one-time incentive food package to facilitate their reintegration into civilian life. The initial phase of the pilot project may commence in late October.

Natural Disasters

July flooding and landslide. On July 30, a dam ruptured in Panjshir Valley, inundating the two villages of Shahre Belande Pawat and Aftasyab, killing at least 20 people, destroying 17 homes, and damaging 32 other dwellings. USAID/OFDA implementing partner ACTED responded to flooding and landslides in Balkh and Takhar provinces with shelter programs and emergency infrastructure repairs.

Sandstorms in Farah Province. Sandstorms, beginning on June 5 and continuing throughout August 2003, affected more than 12,000 people in 57 villages in Lash Wa Juwaym and Shib Koh districts of Farah Province near the Iranian border. The sandstorms buried villages, displaced hundreds of people, destroyed crops, contaminated water supplies, and led to the evacuation of nearly 20 villages. USAID/OFDA continues to monitor the situation to determine if there is a need for assistance.

USG Humanitarian Assistance

Background. On October 15, 2002, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert P. Finn redeclared a complex humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan for FY 2003. At the onset of the complex emergency in 2001, a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART), which had previously deployed to Pakistan in June 2001 due to the drought, coordinated humanitarian assistance with the Pakistan-based Afghanistan international relief community. Other USAID/DARTs were deployed to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to coordinate logistics and the delivery of relief assistance into Afghanistan. In January 2002, the USAID/DART in Pakistan relocated to Kabul, where it continued to coordinate and assess humanitarian needs until being deactivated on June 7, 2002. The USAID/DART was replaced by the USAID/OFDA Program Office in Kabul, which closed in June 2003.

To date, FY 2003 USG humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan has been provided by USAID/OFDA, USAID's Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), and the Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM).

USAID/OFDA assistance. In response to the complex emergency in Afghanistan in FY 2003, USAID/OFDA provided emergency humanitarian assistance in the form of grants and in-kind contributions to U.N. agencies, international organizations (IOs), and NGOs, totaling $24.5 million. USAID/OFDA supported the basic needs of IDPs and other vulnerable Afghans through funding for the emergency provision of food, water, shelter, and non-food items by its IO and NGO implementing partners. USAID/OFDA also supported programs in health and nutrition, agriculture, shelter, and other income-generating rehabilitative work in rural areas.

USAID/FFP assistance. USAID/FFP provided more than 72,400 MT of P.L. 480 Title II Emergency Food Assistance to WFP in FY 2003, valued at approximately $47 million. USAID/FFP food assistance targeted 6,005,500 beneficiaries in FY 2003. USAID/FFP funding supported critically needed relief and reconstruction activities aimed at several objectives, including assisting food-insecure families to meet basic food requirements, supporting returning refugees and IDPs, rehabilitating malnourished children, and improving the capacity of vulnerable groups to cope with food insecurity through creation of assets or acquisition of skills.

USAID/OTI assistance. The role of USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Afghanistan is to help build regional stability and establish space for longer-term development assistance by providing rapid support for the rehabilitation and political process in post-conflict Afghanistan. Since USAID/OTI's program in Afghanistan began in October 2001, USAID/OTI has spent nearly $44 million. USAID/OTI funding is considered transitional rather than emergency/humanitarian, and is therefore not included in the funding table on the following page.

State/PRM assistance. In FY 2003, State/PRM has provided a total of $90 million in funding to IOs and NGOs to support refugee assistance programs in Afghanistan. This includes $22 million in funding to the following NGOs: Shelter for Life, Aga Khan Foundation, Cooperative Housing Foundation, Mercy Corps International, Women for Women, Church World Service, Save the Children, Christian Children's Fund, American Refugee Committee, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Afghan Center, Afghan Refugee Committee, Catholic Relief Services, International Catholic Migration Commission, International Rescue Committee, and Relief International.

State/PRM's funding in Afghanistan supports the voluntary return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs to their homes in Afghanistan. To this end, State/PRM supports critical activities in the sectors of shelter; water and sanitation; primary, reproductive, maternal, and child healthcare; food and nutrition; primary education; mine education and awareness; economic assistance; and capacity building.

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USAID/OFDA situation reports and fact sheets can be obtained from the USAID web site at