Afghanistan Humanitarian Needs Overview 2020 (December 2019)
Summary of Humanitarian Needs
Context & humanitarian impact of the crisis
Afghanistan is now the scene of the deadliest conflict on earth. Fighting continues to rage, exposing civilians, particularly women and children, to daily deadly risks, prompting mass displacement and choking the country’s unstable economy. Years of shocks have left an acutely vulnerable population with few economic resources, an eroded capacity to cope with the unfolding crisis and little hope of recovery if the current conditions persist.
Scope of the analysis
The Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) is based around a common projected scenario for 2020 which expects the status quo to continue or conditions to slightly worsen over the year ahead. This scenario would see a continuation of the highest levels of violence, protection risks for civilians and ongoing violations of international humanitarian law. In view of the bleak outlook, the Humanitarian Country Team conducted a mid-term review of multi-year planning parameters. It concluded that the scope of humanitarian analysis and action during the past two years in Afghanistan was too restrictive and not aligned with the current trajectory of needs, which have reverted to past levels. It was agreed that due to the continued high tempo of the conflict and the setbacks created by the drought, the current multi-year projections and framework for action required a course adjustment in 2020 and 2021, broadening of the scope of humanitarian action and resulting in a significant increase in people in need.
The humanitarian consequences of the crisis now affect every aspect of life in all corners of the country. People’s survival and well-being is threatened by ongoing conflict, inflicting high levels of civilian casualties and life-altering traumatic injuries. Afghanistan is the world’s deadliest conflict for children. Around four million people are estimated to live with physical disability.2 Constant exposure to high-stress, conflict situations and repeated loss of friends and family members are taking their toll on the mental health of people living in Afghanistan. Hunger and malnutrition remain at dangerously high levels despite the passing of the drought with 14.28 million people forecast to be in crisis or emergency food insecurity in the first months of 2020. People’s living conditions have been eroded by years of war and disaster. Inability to access services is a key consequence of the crisis and is a product of a range of factors including conflict, insecurity and fear, poverty and under-investment. Across the country, 3.7 million children are out of school and millions of displaced families lack permanent shelters and appropriate sanitation. About one third of the population (mostly those living in hard-to-reach areas) does not have access to a functional health centre within two hours of their home. The country is facing a protection crisis where people’s rights to safety, security and well-being under international law are regularly threatened. Conflict and displacement have resulted in internally displaced persons (IDPs) and vulnerable people resorting to severe negative coping mechanisms such as early/forced marriages, child labour and begging. Women and girls are deprived of basic rights, particularly education, and gender based violence is pervasive. Afghanistan is littered with landmines and other explosive hazards (new and old), exposing civilians to daily risks. Insecure housing, land and property rights are a key source of vulnerability for many Afghans, particularly IDPs, returnees and women. The cumulative impacts of decades of war, combined with repeated displacement, grinding poverty, a lack of jobs and crippling debt have eroded people’s resilience and capacity to cope with recurrent shocks. A large proportion of the population now lacks the emotional strength or resources to support their own recovery, perpetuating a cycle of aid dependency.
People in need
As a result of the new scope of analysis and the cumulative impact of conflict and disaster, almost a quarter of the country’s population (9.4 million people out of a population of almost 38 million) is now estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2020. The majority of those in need are children (56 per cent). Upward adjustments in needs have been made across every sector with Protection needs showing the largest change (2.4 million in 2019, 7 million in 2020). Looking forward to 2021, the final year of the current multi-year HRP, clusters have projected a similar figure for people in need, based on a continuation of the current security scenario. Overall the PiN figure will decrease slightly to 9 million in 2021.
Severity of needs
The crisis in Afghanistan is now affecting every province in the country with shock-affected households facing multiple humanitarian needs simultaneously, undermining their capacity to cope and recover. In the Whole of Afghanistan (WOA) Assessment, 62 per cent of shock-affected households nationally were found to have concurrent sectoral needs in two or more sectors. Inter-sectoral needs were prevalent across all geographical areas suggesting a necessity for a stronger focus on integrated response across the country. Overlapping sectoral needs were highest among shock-affected households in Uruzgan in the south and Takhar in the north-east. Both provinces have been heavily affected by conflict and displacement, overloading existing basic services and stretching the capacity of aid agencies for a comprehensive response. Shock-affected households in rural areas are significantly more likely to face at least two simultaneous sectoral needs (71 per cent) compared to households living in urban areas (55 per cent).