Following the fall of the Taliban in November 2001 the international community made a huge commitment to Afghanistan. Donors pledged considerable amounts for reconstruction at international conferences in Tokyo (2002), Berlin (2004) and at the London conference in January 2006. With the increasing impact of this post-emergency aid DG ECHO progressively scaled down the amount and range of its funding, from 73,000,000 EUR in 2002 to 22,500,000 EUR in 2006. However, the progressive deterioration in the security situation has made it increasingly difficult to carry out development and reconstruction projects in many parts of the country. This, coupled with many years of drought, has generated a greatly increased level of humanitarian need and has left large numbers of returnees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their host communities highly vulnerable. Consequently it was necessary to increase DG ECHO's humanitarian aid budget in 2007 to 27,000,000 EUR (including 6,000,000 EUR for food aid) and this trend will continue in 2008 with a Global Plan of 25,000,000 EUR That will be complemented by a separate financial allocation for food aid whose programming is underway.
Coming after 23 years of war, and affected by years of drought, the scale of needs being addressed by these resources remains immense and coping mechanisms of many to provide for their own livelihood have been severely affected. Renewed and intensified fighting in several areas in Afghanistan has compounded to the difficulty of achieving a minimum standard of living and has created new humanitarian needs in battle affected areas. In addition to this, the major rehabilitation effort now underway is also offset by the scale of refugee return, over 20 % of the present in-country population of over 24,500,000 having returned in the past five years, making it the largest repatriation operation in the world. A further 3,000,000 live in neighbouring Pakistan (2,050,000) and Iran (900,000). Both countries have expressed the intention that all Afghans should return to their home country in the near future, and pressure to achieve this goal is mounting. Consequently, and despite the relative improvement, the absolute level of needs remains very high and requires a continued and increased humanitarian engagement. This is well illustrated through DG ECHO's global needs assessment index (GNA), which ranks Afghanistan in the highest category of needing for 2007, and also by the fact that one out of every five Afghan children dies before his/her fifth birthday.
The main need identified for DG ECHO's assistance is for the return and sustainable reintegration of 220,000 of the most vulnerable refugees and 128,000 IDPs, with the main sectors identified as water and sanitation, shelter and protection. Victims of armed conflict and small scale disasters will also be assisted where needed. Other needs relate to support for the most vulnerable in host communities, many of whom have only recently returned, and the most vulnerable amongst remaining refugees. The main risks and assumptions relate to access which is often constrained by security problems or by the logistical challenges of the mountain and desert terrain.