UNICEF Afghanistan Humanitarian Situation Report: January-March 2021

Situation Report
Originally published



  • The security environment continued to deteriorate with an increased number of clashes killing and maiming civilians, including children and women, despite ongoing peace process. The conflict continues to impact civilians resulting in a 29 percent increase in civilian causalities compared with the same period (quarter 1) in 2020. Of particular concern is the 23 percent increase in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020 (UNAMA).

  • As spring approaches, a potential drought, intensifying conflict, and ongoing COVID-19 challenges present overlapping challenges in Afghanistan.

  • The Inter Cluster Country Team (ICCT) in Afghanistan identified some 25 provinces to be potentially affected by drought on different scales as high, medium and low risk.

  • Nearly 110,000 additional children will be severely acutely malnourished. This will create a situation where over a million children will be SAM in 2021.

  • Between March and May 2021, nearly 11 million people (35% of population) in Afghanistan are experiencing, and will experience, high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above) due to conflict, COVID-19, high food prices and widespread unemployment.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

The multiple and overlapping challenges over the spring season including La Niña-driven climatic changes, intensifying conflict, new and protracted internal displacement, and ongoing COVID-19 exacerbate the vulnerabilities of Afghanistan’s population. As per a multi-sectoral needs’ analysis conducted by ICCT, 25 provinces are estimated to be highly impacted by drought, although the drought has not yet been officially declared by the government of Afghanistan. The impact of the climatic events, storm-related flooding, conflict, and COVID-19 will vary across regions based on the degree to which these phenomena manifest and interact with pre-existing vulnerabilities in various locations. UNICEF has put in place a response plan to address the spring related emergencies.

The drought will likely result in nearly an additional 110,000 children who will be severely acutely malnourished and at risk of dying. Along with recent increases due to worsening insecurity and COVID-19, there will be nearly 1 million children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Afghanistan over the next year.

New Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Analysis (IPC) released at the beginning of April 2021 shows that between March and May 2021 around 11 million people equivalent to 35% of the population in Afghanistan are facing high level of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above). The analysis indicates that the main causes of food insecurity are conflict, COVID-19, high food prices and widespread unemployment. Moreover, the analysis projected that the number of food insecure people will decrease to 9.5 million people with 6.7 million in crisis (IPC Phase 3) and 2.7 million in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) between June and November 2021 that include harvest and post-harvest seasons.

As of 25 February, Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) data shows that 55,693 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are confirmed to have had COVID-19. Some 49,281 people have recovered, and 2,441 people have died, of which at least 91 of whom were healthcare workers. Only 293,649 people out of the population of 40.4 million have been tested. Afghanistan now has a test-positivity-rate – positive tests as a percentage of total tests – of close to 17 per cent, suggesting overall under-testing of potential cases. Due to limited public health resources and testing capacity, lack of people coming forward for testing, as well as the absence of a national death register, confirmed cases of and deaths from COVID-19 are likely to be under-reported overall in Afghanistan.

As highlighted in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2021, 18.4 million people of 40.4 million of total population are in need of humanitarian assistance. This includes 1.5 million people with disabilities and 9.7 million children with acute needs. Women, children and people with disabilities are especially vulnerable in the current health, economic, social and security context and an estimated 30.5 million people (>75 per cent of population) need targeted social assistance.
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