Conflict, natural disasters and a lack of development have turned Afghanistan into one of the poorest countries in the world. Although the country made significant improvements over the last years, particularly with regards to the reduction of <5 and maternal mortality rates, poverty is still widespread, compounded by a lack of health and social services. Existing vulnerabilities are compounded by frequently reoccurring natural disasters including floods, droughts, epidemics, earthquakes, landslides, storms and periods of extreme temperature. Insecurity and armed conflict continue to affect a large part of the country, leading to significant protection concerns, large scale displacement and a lack of humanitarian access. The epicentre of the conflict, which used to be in the south and east of the country, has spread to most Afghan provinces, particularly to the North.
The future of Afghanistan will be shaped by two major events. Firstly, all international forces will withdraw from the country by 2014. It is expected that along with the military transition, there will be a significant reduction in development assistance, resulting in a difficult socio-economic transition as well. Secondly, Afghanistan is the largest and most protracted refugee crisis in history. During the past 10 years, over 4.7 million refugees have returned. The possible return of an estimated 3-4 million registered and undocumented Afghans still residing in Iran and Pakistan could significantly impact the economy and security situation in the country, as Afghanistan has limited capacity to cope with these returns.