The fall of the Taliban in November 2001 has brought about political, economic and developmental processes which are, slowly, yielding results. The international community has made a huge commitment to Afghanistan. In terms of aid, at international conferences at Tokyo (2002) and Berlin (2004) donors pledged US$14.4 billion for reconstruction 2002 - 2006, of which US$3.8 billion from the European Union. With the increasing impact of this post-emergency aid DG ECHO has substantially scaled down the amount and range of its funding, from 73 million EUR in 2002 to 20 million EUR in 2005.
Coming after 23 years of war, and compounded by five years of drought until 2004, however, the scale of needs being addressed by these resources remains formidable. In addition to the scale of the needs, the major rehabilitation effort now underway is also offset by the scale of refugee return, nearly 18 % of the present in-country population of over 22 million having returned in the past four years(1). A further 4 million live in neighbouring Pakistan (3 million) and Iran (1 million).(2)
Consequently, and despite the relative improvement, the absolute level of needs remains high and requires a continued humanitarian engagement. This is well illustrated through DG ECHO's global needs assessment index (GNA), which ranks Afghanistan fifth highest for needs in 2006; or the fact that one out of every four Afghan children dies before their fifth birthday(3).
The main need identified for DG ECHO's assistance is for the return and reintegration of 600,000 refugees and 120,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), with the main sectors identified as water and sanitation, shelter and protection. Other needs would be an extension of these to assist the most vulnerable in host communities, many of whom have only recently returned, and the most vulnerable amongst remaining refugees. This could amount to up 1,4 million people.
The main risks and assumptions relate to access, often constrained by security problems or the logistical challenges of the mountain and desert terrain.
(1) 2004 UNDP Global Development report put population at 22 million; UNHCR estimates that to date approaching 4 million refugees have returned.
(2) source UNHCR.
(3) 257/1000 compared to 93/1000 live births in south Asia (source : 2005 Millenium Goal development report).