Of the almost 7 million children aged under-five in Afghanistan, an estimated 3.1 million are acutely malnourished in 2021. This implies a staggering 1 in 2 children under-five are in need of acute malnutrition treatment services to save their lives. About 14% of the total acute malnourished burden in Afghanistan is attributed to COVID-19 (HNO, 2021).
One out of two children are not fully immunised in Afghanistan. Data show that 50% of all health facilities providing vaccination services, reported a decrease of 30% or more of the uptake of immunization services due to conflict and COVID-19. This further led to the outbreaks of measles affecting more than 10,500 children (HIMS, 2020).
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the closure of all education facilities in mid-March leaving more than 7.5 million children from public schools and 500,000 from Community Based Education (CBE) out of school. In response, UNICEF supported 860,122 (43 per cent girls) children with self-learning materials to facilitate sustained engagement in learning.
UNICEF has scaled-up implementation of climate resilient and sustainable water services to underserved communities in Afghanistan in 2020 and as a result 100 per cent of the water supply facilities are now either solar powered or gravity systems with zero carbon footprint.
Despite COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF continued to focus on regular humanitarian activities on the frontline in addition to COVID-19 response and had been able to provide 1,563,166 people including 933,467 children with integrated services (476,068 boys and 457,399 girls).
Funding Overview and Partnerships
UNICEF appealed for USD70.05 million in 2020 to sustain the provision of life-saving services for children and women in Afghanistan. During 2020, UNICEF received USD27 million including USD14 million of carried-over funds from 2019. ECHO, EU, USAID, CERF, GPE, ECW, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank and Gavi, and the governments of Canada and Japan, generously contributed to UNICEF Afghanistan’s humanitarian response. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all donors. By the end of 2020, the Humanitarian Action for Children appeal still had a funding gap of 41 per cent against the appeal. Under-funded programmes include education and health for their regular emergency programmes. Despite some regular emergency programmes and COVID-19 response being complementary, the inadequate funds compromise UNICEF’s efforts to provide timely and effective humanitarian actions overall.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The COVID-19 pandemic compounded with escalating conflict, recurrent natural disasters, deteriorating economy, continued displacement, unprecedented levels of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty have exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities of children, adolescent girls, boys and families. The new Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2021 reflects a significant increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance – now 18.4m people up from 14m in mid-2020. 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.
The people of Afghanistan continue to face extreme consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to underlying vulnerabilities, the health system is fragile and under-resourced. The food security situation in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate with the percentage of food-insecure people doubling. The proportion of people in a crisis or emergency situation has simultaneously increased more than five-fold in the past five years. The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis shows the food-security situation has further deteriorated during COVID-19 with an estimated 16.9 million people (42 per cent of the population) now assessed to be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. According to data from the IPC Secretariat, Afghanistan has the second highest number of people in emergency food-insecurity in the world (5.5 million).
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, cumulative precipitation has been below average in most provinces from mid-November to early January 2021 and it shows a worrying La Nina climate outlook. Additionally, findings of the most recent nutrition surveys show that 27 out of 34 provinces are now within the emergency threshold for acute malnutrition. Almost one in two children under five is expected to face acute malnutrition as well as a quarter of pregnant and lactating women in 2021. As per Displaced Tracking Matrix of Afghanistan, nearly five million people remain displaced since 2012 and most of them are living in insecure housing in informal settlements on private land on the fringes of major cities.
Despite the ongoing peace talks, there has been no sign of improvement in the operating environment for humanitarians with violence continuing. Interferences in the implementation of with humanitarian activities has escalated with a 140 per cent increase such incidents compared to 2019 (Humanitarian Access Snapshot, 2020). In 2020, WHO recorded 89 incidents that include direct attacks on hospitals, abductions of healthcare workers, acts of intimidation, looting of medical supplies etc.