UNICEF Emergency Programmes: Afghanistan Donor Update 10 Feb 2000

Originally published

1. Emergency overview and recent developments
As Afghanistan enters its 21st year of war, over 1.5 million people have been killed, including some 400,000 children. At least 700,000 women have been widowed and approximately 800,000 people are disabled due to landmines or natural causes.

About 1.2 million Afghans are still refugees in Pakistan and possibly 1.4 million are in Iran. Many parts of the country are calm but no end to the conflict is yet in sight. The Taliban movement controls most of the country and enforces a particularly strict interpretation of Islam. Fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces continues in the north and northeastern regions of the country and sometimes approaches the capital, Kabul, under Taliban control.

Fighting between July and December has resulted in over 121,000 people being displaced from the north and and northeast parts of the country. At least 21,000 families were forced to leave their homes in Shomali in August/September and fled to Kabul. Over 65,000 people left Shomali for the remote Panshir valley to escape factional fighting. Food shortages and high prices, freezing weather and little clothing now threaten them.

The conservative Taliban views pose especially difficult problems for women and girls in employment, education and mobility. Afghan women may not gather together, leave their homes without head-to-toe covering or travel outside their hometown without a close male relative. When girls were excluded from education in November 1995, UNICEF suspended assistance to formal education programmes in areas under Taliban control. Nevertheless, UNICEF has always continued supporting education where both boys and girls have equal access. Afghan women can only work in the health sector, although many work as teachers in home-based schools, often at risk to themselves and their families. Women also face other hardships. Pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous. According to a 1997 national survey conducted for UNICEF, the maternal mortality rate in urban areas was 350 per 100,000 live births and 1,500 in rural areas. This is among the world’s highest. Only 3 per cent of women are immunized with tetanus toxoid to protect their newborn from neo-natal tetanus. Vaccine-preventable diseases account for about 21 per cent of child deaths diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections account for another 42 per cent. Almost 50 per cent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and 15 per cent from acute malnutrition.

2. UNICEF’s Response: Activities, Achievements and Constraints

UNICEF is working with local and regional authorities (where possible) and with national and international NGOs to deliver services to women and children in the poorest sectors of the population, including internally displaced persons (IDPs). In November/December, UNICEF distributed 8,625 clothing items, 17,100 quilts and 4,044 plastic sheets to families of IDP children in Kabul. Water supply (with CARE), education supplies (with SC-US), and nutritional supplements (with WFP) were also provided. For the Panjshir valley IDPs, 14,000 pullovers were sent for IDP children. Procurement of 7,000 jackets, 5,900 pair boots and 7,000 socks is in process. In addition, UNICEF, with NGOs and other UN agencies is providing health education to women and carrying out a measles vaccination campaign. Trench latrines and bathrooms were being constructed in November/December with ACTED.


More than 100 new cases of polio were detected in 1999 making Afghanistan one of five countries globally where transmission of the wild polio virus is still high. This results in an exponential effect over the years on the number of children under 18 years of age who suffer from the crippling effects of polio.

UNICEF and WHO, with the Ministry of Public Health and other UN agencies, carried out four rounds of National Immunization Days (NIDs) in May, June, October and November. Of a targeted 4.3 million children under five years, more than 4 million reached in each of the three first rounds were vaccinated against polio in the first two rounds of NIDs. Vitamin A was also provided to children aged 12 - 59 months.

UNICEF supports 5 Regional and 20 Provincial Management Teams and about 1,200 vaccinators and provides all vaccines and EPI operational costs. The cost of the routine immunization programme is about $2 million per year, while the National Immunization Days alone cost another $2 million.

Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES):

Lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation and unhygienic practices contribute to high child and women mortality rates. UNICEF has been supporting communities to reduce the incidence of water borne diseases, especially diarrhoea, through the provision of pumps and wells, sanitation facilities and hygiene education in rural and peri-urban areas. A sanitation and hygiene centre was established in Kandahar, to serve as a demonstration and training center for appropriate low-cost safe water systems, family sanitary latrines (FSL), hygiene practices and home gardens using waste water to improve family nutritional status.

A Handpump Water Supply and Sanitation Guide is nearing completion. This was prepared under UNICEF leadership with support from NGOs - especially DACAAR and SCA - and WHO. A week-long health and WES sector Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) & Hygiene Education and Sanitation campaign (HES) was organized to disseminate extensive sanitation and hygiene promotion to over 1.5 million people in major regional/provincial cities plus focussed (integrated and area-based project) districts.

A training course on rights-based WES programme planning/implementation was organized for Pakistan local government departments in Peshawar, counterparts, NGOs and UNICEF. Training in FSL construction and sanitation and hygiene was organized in two regions and a refresher course in hand-pump well construction and installation was organized for counterpart RRD staff and NGO staff in five regions.

In 1999, 410,000 people were provided with safe water through construction of 875 hand pump wells, and rehabilitation of five pipe water systems. About a million people were assisted with bleaching-sand mix bags to chlorinate home dugwells during the summer period.

Twelve thousand families were supported to construct FSLs and were supported by a strong female mobilization component through home visits utilizing female volunteers. This initiative was very effective. As a result, in many focus districts, multiplication of FSL construction has started without any UNICEF financial and material support.

A total of 120,000 people were provided with safe drinking water through construction of 400 community handpump wells and the rehabilitation of an urban water supply network in a town. As many as 40,000 people have been provided with safe excreta disposal facilities through building 5,000 family sanitary latrines.

Children in Difficult Circumstances

Approximately 12,000 disabled persons (60 per cent women and children) benefited from UNICEF-supported physical rehabilitation services in the Eastern region in 1999. Additional outreach services ensured that disabled children are identified and treated at a young age.

In Kabul, UNICEF continued to work on family reunification for children living in the main state orphanages with some, albeit limited, success, mainly due to the long absence of international agencies from Kabul, frequent changes in orphanage management, and differences in understanding on children’s best interests.

Advocacy and Communication

Increased media coverage on women’s and children’s issues and enhanced development and dissemination of messages to Afghan parents and leaders were seen in 1999 despite the many constraints on mass communication. Because of no international staff inside Afghanistan from August 1998 to March 1999, State of the World’s Children 1999 was not launched. A ceremony in Kabul in March 1999 sent a signal to the authorities that UNICEF maintains its principled position on education for all. State of the World’s Children 2000 was launched very successfully on 13 December in Jalalabad with a separate women’s gathering and one for men, officials and four international women.

Promotion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was advanced in 1999 with rights-based training for UNICEF staff in April and training on the CRC itself in November. The 10th anniversary of the CRC was commemorated in Kabul with two large workshops, one for men and one for women. The CRC was also produced in Pashto and Dari in booklet format. The traditional Year Planner was produced and distributed amid some controversy about articles from Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that were included. In some Taliban-controlled provinces, the left-hand column of the 1999 Year Planner was cut off before distribution. Limited but critical support was provided to NGOs such as the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines (which observed the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention and produced a calendar.

UNICEF condemned the use of child soldiers in Afghanistan in a formal statement in August 1999. This was used in the Secretary General’s Annual Report for Afghanistan amongst other sources, resulting in a protest and denial by Taliban authorities. This situation pointed out the difficulties in defining and maintaining a joint UN approach to Afghanistan.

The BBC’s New Home, New Life radio drama was again supported. Support was provided to the starting up of a new BBC programme aimed at children. This REACH programme, which is tentatively being called Our World, Our Future, was also supported.

3. Funding received for 1999

A total of US $4.1 million was received in 1999. This includes contributions for both the Appeal and regular programme activities as indicated below. Funds designated specifically for the 1999 Appeal amounted to US $1.39 million.

4. Summary of 2000 Appeal requirements

In the 2000 Appeal, the UN agencies and NGOs requested US$ 184,712,000. UNICEF’s portion is US$ 3,890,000 and, of this, US$ 1,027,450 has been funded ($672,000 from UK and $355,450 from Sweden).

UNICEF Afghanistan: Year 2000 Appeal
Amount requested (USD)
Integrated Primary Health Care
Safe motherhood

Details of the Afghanistan Programme can be obtained from:

Louis Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative
Tel: 92 51 212834
Fax: 92 51 212836

Robin Medforth-Mills
Tel: + 41 22 909 5554
Fax: + 41 22 909 5902

Dan Rohrmann
New York
Tel: + 1 212 326 7009
Fax: + 1 212 326 7165

For more information on UNICEF, visit its website at