Afghanistan: Hard-to-Reach Assessment - Round One: March 2018, Version 3

Context and Background

The Government of Afghanistan continues to struggle to obtain full control over its national territory, with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) considering some 45 districts of Afghanistan as fully or partially under the control of Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs) and a further 118 district as contested and regularly falling in and out of government control.
In addition to sustained levels of conflict in a number of districts of the country, the displacement situation remained unstable in 2017 after unprecedented levels of displacement were observed in 2016. Since January 2017, approximately 286,000 undocumented Afghans have returned from Pakistan and Iran and an estimated 202,109 people have been displaced internally as a result of the ongoing conflict. Sustained levels of internal displacement have been observed across the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

A Hard-to-Reach (HTR) district can be defined as such from a security perspective as well as a terrain perspective – where access is limited due to remoteness or hostile terrain. Most generally however, given the Afghan context, a HTR district has been defined as a district where access by humanitarian actors is limited due to active fighting that poses a security risk for humanitarian workers and beneficiaries, or due to the presence of Armed Opposition Groups that actively limit access to the district through constraints such as checkpoints. Limited delivery of core services such as electricity and telecommunication services also hinders humanitarian actors’ ability to properly operate in such areas. Approximately 20% of all displaced persons are believed to be residing in HTR areas.

Due to limitations associated with HTR areas, conventional data collection techniques (face-to-face/telephone interviews) are not Context and Background always possible, generating a lack of reliable data, and therefore reducing the adequacy of on-the-ground response. As a result, there is a lack of regular monitoring of these Hard-toReach communities which has undermined the ability to track the needs and vulnerabilities to ultimately inform the response, both operationally and strategically. These areas are thus twice marginalised: a lack of information ranging from basic population figures to needs and vulnerabilities in these areas feeds into a lack of inclusion of these areas into humanitarian planning.

To remedy this lack of adequate understanding of HTR districts, Hard-to-Reach districts was made the priority under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) which stated that “with the official IDP petition system largely or completely out of reach for those living in non-government held areas, in addition to the limited coverage of disease and food insecurity early warning systems, the capacity of humanitarian partners to detect or respond to the most acute needs may have been considerably weakened over the past six months, resulting in less IDPs being reported despite intensified conflict”.

In collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Humanitarian Access Group, REACH is implementing the Afghanistan Hard-to-Reach Assessment (AHTRA) REACH conducted the first quarterly round of needs assessment in 45 districts classified by the InterCluster Country Team (ICCT) as Hard-to-Reach under OCHA’s 2017 Second Allocation of the Common Humanitarian Fund.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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