• A new NRC/ATR report to be released soon highlights that the humanitarian community in Afghanistan must do more to improve access and meet needs in hard to access areas if it is to uphold humanitarian principles.
• UNAMA’s 2016 Protection of Civilians report reveals that civilian casualties last year hit a record high; with more children than ever before recorded as affected.
• We speak to Basia Haidari, a female aid worker for IMC in Kunduz, who tells us about the importance of having female staff to reach vulnerable Afghan women.
• The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan was launched on 21 January; requesting US$550 million to reach 5.7 million of the most vulnerable and marginalised Afghans with humanitarian assistance
HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLAN 2017 FUNDING
550 million request (US$)
39.6 million received (US$)
(Reflects funding on Financial Tracking Service as of 31 Jan 2017)
Source: http://fts.unocha.org More on funding on page 7
Humanitarian Action in Hard to Access Areas
In Afghanistan, delivering humanitarian services in hard to access areas remains extremely challenging. Agencies engaged in these activities are hampered by two major obstacles: a lack of reliable information on humanitarian needs in inaccessible areas, and challenges in gaining access to areas beset by insecurity and conflict. To address this situation, humanitarian actors need accurate data to properly account for needs in hard to access areas and devise ways to deliver services to the populations located in these areas.
Through CHF funding, the Norwegian Refugee Council commissioned ATR Consulting to assist humanitarian agencies in addressing these obstacles by providing more comprehensive information on humanitarian needs and methods of access in these hard to access areas. ATR surveyed approximately 10,000 households in five provinces of Afghanistan (Baghlan, Badghis, Farah, Faryab and Zabul) where humanitarian access is a persistent challenge, to compare humanitarian needs in both easy and hard to access areas, with a particular focus on the needs of displaced communities.
The surveys were supplemented by key informant interviews and focus groups, providing further insights on existing vulnerabilities and how access to insecure areas might be improved.
What has been uncovered is the fact that there are greater humanitarian needs in hard to access areas in the categories of WASH, shelter, access to health and markets, and education. Moreover those in hard to access areas are more likely to report issues of protection including gender based violence, forced marriage, eviction and unequal distribution of aid. When it came to GBV, men and women in hard to access areas were far more likely to mention that there was no way for women to report concerns of GBV, and if they were, that interventions were far more likely to be unsuccessful.
“No one has paid attention to our problems, but we wouldn’t be able to share them with anyone if there was,” said one housewife in Anar Dara district, Farah, an area considered hard to access. In another hard to access district, Murqur in Badghis, one male farmer reported, “there hasn’t been any intervention into [our] problems by any person, institution, or government officials, because to some extent, to work in this area is very difficult”.
This absence of intervention is overwhelmingly due to a lack of access. Access must improve for those in the humanitarian community to carry out assessments and provide assistance for those in need.
Looking at displacement, the surveys found that IDP households tend to gravitate in slightly greater numbers in easy to access areas, likely owing to better security and economic opportunities. IDP households living in these areas are more likely to want to remain in place rather than to return home. IDPs certainly suffer more than non-displaced persons with vulnerabilities generally more pronounced amongst displaced households when compared to their host population. In particular, IDP households generally suffer from worse housing conditions and more economic vulnerability, including higher household expenses and less preparation for unexpected economic shocks.
For many of those living in hard to access areas, participating in a household survey was a very new thing, a first chance for them to have their voices heard. Those living in these areas shared a story, as illustrated by some of the quotes below, where contact with the government or humanitarian agencies was a foreign concept, and that without adequate support from government, the trust they place in the state remains weak.
“Neither the government nor any organization has provided assistance to us.” - Female, Rug Weaver, Murqur, Badghis province, Hard to access areas
“It affects people’s trust towards the government and local Shura. It reduces their cooperation in the future.” – Male, Hafiz of Koran, Doshi, Baghlan province, Hard to access areas
“We have problems for many years but there is no one to resolve it. If we refer to the government then Taliban won’t spare us, and if we refer to the Taliban, then the government won’t spare us.” - Male, Tribal Elder, Shahjoy, Zabul province, Hard to access areas
Thus when answering the question of how humanitarian needs in hard to access areas of Afghanistan compare with needs elsewhere in the country, it is clear that for certain humanitarian indicators, the needs are greater. As these areas are deemed hard to access, the humanitarian community must do more to improve their access and meet these needs if it is to uphold its humanitarian principles. This means more resources need to be allocated to better understand how access works, and organisations need to better strategise their approach to access by prioritising local recruitment of field teams, and employing a more provincially diverse staff across their respective organisation.
ATR contributed this article. The full report is expected to be released shortly; with copies available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org Names have been omitted for this report for protection reasons.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.