UNICEF Afghanistan Humanitarian Situation Report No. 1: Mid-Year 2020

Situation Report
Originally published



  • Some 12.4 million people, one third of the population, are at the emergency level of food insecurity between June and November 2020.
  • 3.7 million are out of school, over 60 per cent are girls, from rural areas. With COVID-19, an additional 10 million are missing learning opportunities.
  • Over 93,000 people have sustainable access to safe drinking water.
  • With a significant decrease in the coverage of routine reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) services, up to 25,000 additional children under-five could face deaths within the next 12 months.
  • A 38 per cent decrease in admissions for inpatient treatment of SAM and 10 per cent decrease in outpatient services seen between March and May 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • On average, children aged 0-17 bear the highest burden in all the predisposing factors to COVID-19 among all other population subgroups.
  • Interference attempts by parties to conflict have increased in the second quarter comparing to the first quarter of 2020.
  • From 1 January to 30 June 2020, 370,000 most vulnerable people, including over 275,000 children, benefited from UNICEF’s integrated humanitarian assistances.

Funding Overview and Partnerships

In 2020, UNICEF had appealed for US$ 72.05 million to sustain the provision of life-saving services for children, adolescents, and women in Afghanistan. During the course of the year, UNICEF received US$ 27 million for emergency response, including US$ 14 million of carried-over funds from 2019. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all donors for their valuable support, including the governments of Canada, European Union through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), and Japan in addition to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF), Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Education Cannot Wait (ECW), Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). However, as of mid-2020, the 2019 Humanitarian Action for Children still had a funding gap of 62 per cent against the appeal. Under-funded programmes include education and health for their non-COVID-19 related emergency programmes. Although some non-COVID-19 related and the COVID-19 responses are being complementary, the inadequate funds undermine UNICEF’s efforts in providing timely and effective humanitarian actions. Without adequate funding, UNICEF and partners will be unable to scale up integrated programming and provide critical and protective services for children and women and men displaced by conflict, affected by natural disasters and impacted by ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

Decades of conflict, cyclical natural disasters, persistent poverty, and weak basic services compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc in Afghanistan. The population in Afghanistan is left with eroded emotional, social and financial capital, which could trigger a series of human tragedies. The revised Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) reflects a significant increase in the overall number of people in need (PiN) of humanitarian assistance to 14 million (37 percent of the population) from 9.4 million people since the beginning of the year. The impact on children, women and people with specific needs are disproportionally high. According to OCHA, 89 incidents of interferences in the implementation of humanitarian activities were recorded during the first six months of 2020. The conflict continues impeding human rights, including the rights of children who are most often detained due to minor offences, and allegations of association with armed groups. According to UNAMA 2020 mid-year report, Afghanistan remains one of the deadliest global conflict for civilians with women and children comprising over 40 per cent of all casualties.

More than one third of Afghans remain facing severe crisis and food insecurity in 2020. An analysis of data from 50 SMART surveys conducted between 2015 and 2019 indicates that a staggering 15.3 per cent of infants under six months of age in Afghanistan are affected by wasting, of which 6.2 per cent are severely wasted. In a deteriorating trend from the beginning of the year, findings of the most recent nutrition surveys show that 26 out of 34 provinces are now above the emergency threshold for acute malnutrition. The nutrition outlook for the remainder of the year remains bleak. The analysis for mid-year HRP revision revealed that number of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) has increased by 13 per cent compared to the start of the year, from 690,000 to 780,000.

Only 42 per cent of births are registered and the country’s under-five mortality rate is high at 62 deaths per 1,000 live births. The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly pushing the country to plunge back into instability that could undermine the gains attained. The restricted movement and the lack of female health personnel coupled with pre-existing social and cultural norms around women’s access to services seriously diminish women’s ability to access health services even if they develop symptoms.

Only 67 per cent of households have access to an improved source of drinking water. Access to improved sanitation is as low as 43 per cent with over 13 per cent open defecation, while 38 per cent have access to hygiene supplies/services. In addition. there are over 35% schools and community health facilities with no access to water supply to provide quality education and health care support by promoting healthy hygienic situation. Since COVID-19 pandemic, more than 7.5 million children in schools and more than 500,000 children enrolled in Community Based Education (CBEs) are not attending schools as per the normal schedule. In a country where some 3.7 million children are already out of school, this further widens the education gap – increasing the probability of permanent dropouts, and adversely affects children’s general well-being. The closure of schools will exacerbate the burden of unpaid childcare work on women and girls. There is also a higher risk of child labour and early marriage in situations where families become economically stressed. Cultural norms in Afghanistan also limit the role of women outside the home and expose them to increased risks as they are the caregivers for the sick.

The Ministry of Health reported a significant reduction in health facilities attendance. Out of fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus at health facilities, families are de-prioritising pre- and post-natal care adding to the vulnerabilities of pregnant women and newborn babies.

The microsimulation of effects on multidimensional poverty conducted by University of Oxford and UNICEF Afghanistan in April 2020 showed that eight out of 10 adults face at least one deprivation in predisposing factors to COVID-19. This includes i) food insecurity, ii) lack of adequate sanitation, iii) lack of a safe source of drinking water, and iv) lack of access to clean cooking fuel. On average, children aged 0-17 bear the highest burden in all the predisposing factors, nine out of 10, comparing to all other population subgroups.