The President of Afghanistan officially declared a drought on 22 June 2021 and urged the international community to increase emergency and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Humanitarian organizations, including ARCS, have been urged to adapt their activities to the national plan and to enhance coordination with relevant government departments. Following the declaration and in view of an anticipated expansion of geographical areas to be covered by ARCS, the National Society has requested IFRC to revise the Emergency Appeal (EA) and its Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA). Modification of the EA is underway, and a revision is expected to be issued by end of July 2021.
Description of the disaster
Afghanistan is facing a drought, which was officially declared by the President of the country on 22 June 2021. The country has been experiencing dry conditions since October 2020, which affected the winter season snow accumulation that is critical for water access during the spring and summer agricultural seasons. This is the second drought to impact Afghanistan in four years. The rain-fed and irrigated agriculture/livestock are impacted the most. This year, according to the government, the country’s wheat crop will be reduced by nearly 2 million tons, and more than 3 million livestock are in danger of death due to lack of fodder and water.
The drought is a devastating blow for a country already grappling with escalating conflict, a devastating new wave of COVID-19 and crippling poverty. COVID-19 cases have steadily risen since mid-May 2021, with compounding socio-economic impacts.
The recently released IPC analysis estimates that nearly 11 million people – almost one-third of the population – are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in 20212. Food prices are already higher than normal due to COVID-19 and may increase further due to armed conflicts and drought. These compounding factors are pushing the financially poor households – especially amongst the small farm holders – to experience extreme food insecurity and rely on destructive coping mechanisms, such as the sale of productive assets, taking children out of school – so they should contribute to household incomes – and reducing the quality and quantity of food.
Summary of current response
Overview of Operating National Society
As an auxiliary to the government, ARCS is a primary national partner to respond to disasters across the country and facilitate disaster preparedness activities with its 34 provincial branches spread across the country. ARCS has a long history of providing life-saving assistance to people in need in Afghanistan. ARCS presence and local networks across the country are exceptionally well established, which enables the National Society to reach vulnerable populations including in highly remote and hard-to-reach areas. ARCS has vast expertise with different types of programming through multilateral projects supported by IFRC, ICRC and Red Cross Red Crescent partners working bilaterally.
ARCS volunteers play a critical role at all stages of programming. This includes assessment, identification, and registration of target communities and internally displaced populations. In addition, volunteers carry out hygiene promotion and community mobilization. Through nationwide coverage of 34 provincial branches and a network of 30,000 volunteers, ARCS can implement large-scale and long-term preparedness and response programmes in coordination with public authorities and across lines of conflict. Applying principled humanitarian action, ARCS enjoys a high level of acceptance and has access to communities across the whole country. The branches in targeted areas have teams of trained volunteers in disaster preparedness and response through established National and Branch Disaster Response Teams, Mobile Health Teams and community mobilizers as part of the CBHFA programme.
Overview of Red Cross Red Crescent Movement actions in country
The IFRC Afghanistan Country Delegation has set up a technical support platform for ARCS in addressing emergencies and longer-terms programmes while IFRC supports ARCS organization development at large. Across the emergency response, IFRC has supported ARCS disaster management teams and volunteers for needs assessment, resource mobilization and for the design and monitoring of the emergency operation, in close coordination with other Red Cross Red Crescent partners in-country, IFRC Asia Pacific Regional Office (APRO) and IFRC Secretariat in Geneva. With regards to longer terms programmes, IFRC is supporting immunization initiatives for children and implementation of community-health services through the support to Mobile Health Teams (MHTs) and the CBHFA in North, Northeast, Central North, Central South and West of Afghanistan.
The ICRC, in its role of lead agency, is present in Afghanistan since 1986 and engages in dialogue with all parties to the conflict having a direct or indirect influence on the humanitarian situation in the country. The key operating areas in responding to the Afghanistan protracted conflict include the promotion and respect of IHL, health services, in particular for the wounded and sick, ensuring physical rehabilitation and social reintegration, monitoring the treatment of detainees across the country, and maintaining contact with their families, as well as their health and water sanitation conditions. They provide support to the civilian population in improving livelihood and water and sanitation, health, Restoring Family Links (RFL), and tracing activities. The ICRC supports ARCS, as its primary partner in its development and operations with a focus on the “Safer Access” approach that promotes safer access to persons affected by conflict and other situations of violence, whilst minimizing risks for staff and volunteers.
Other Participating National Societies
The Norwegian Red Cross has an in-country presence and strongly supports ARCS network of 45 clinics with health interventions, WASH, and CBHFA activities across the country.
The Canadian Red Cross has played a critical role over the years to develop ARCS disaster management capabilities, including through Branch Disaster Management Teams.
The Danish Red Cross extends its support to the ARCS in psychosocial support (PSS) together with ICRC, volunteers management, and youth mobilization activities in Afghanistan.
Qatar Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent have been working in Afghanistan on health and livelihoods programming. ARCS through the support of the Qatar Red Crescent distributed one-off Ramadan food packages to poor households in April 2021.
Red Cross Red Crescent partners have established coordination and cooperation mechanisms including Movement Platform meetings (focusing on strategic matters), informal tripartite meetings (to address urgent matters collectively), operational coordination meetings (focus on operational issues), and technical coordination groups.