UNICEF Humanitarian Action: Afghanistan Donor Update 25 Jul 2007


  • Flash floods, heavy snow fall, landslides, disease outbreaks and armed conflict have affected thousands of Afghan children and their families since the beginning of this year.

- Some parts of the country in Northern and Western regions still suffer from the effects of the drought.

- The deteriorating security situation hampers humanitarian operations and access to affected populations

- UNICEF urgently requires US$ 7 million to respond to the needs of children and women


The year 2007 started with an early and unexpected number of flash floods and population movement as result of heavy rains and armed conflict. From January up to end June 2007, over 28 floods were reported in all regions of the country affecting over 10,000 families. During this period the country also experienced a variety of natural and man-made disasters such as heavy snow falls, landslide, disease outbreaks, armed conflict and influx of Afghan refugees from Iran.

Afghanistan has a maternal mortality ratio of 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births which accounts as one of the highest in the world. The infant mortality rate is 165 per 1,000 live births whereby one child out of every four does not survive his/her fifth birthday. Among under-five children, 7 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition and 54 per cent of them are chronically malnourished. The nutrition figures could be higher in the areas affected by drought, where access is denied and humanitarian services are difficult to deliver. Immunisation coverage for DPT1, DPT3 and measles is estimated at 88, 76 and 64 per cent respectively. Whereas health services are available in 82% of districts, there is a significant population without access to such services, therefore requiring campaign-style high impact interventions with outreach.

Two million children of primary school age (54 per cent) are out of school with an estimated 1.3 million of them being girls. As per Ministry of Education figures provided in 2006, 3,929 schools do not have buildings, 535 school buildings are damaged and 1,481 schools need additional classrooms; overall there are 2219 schools which have useable buildings. Only 23 per cent of the entire population has access to safe drinking water. Access to sanitation facilities is as low as 12 per cent.

The security situation in the country is deteriorating; more areas have fallen into active military operation zones between the Government/Coalition forces and Anti-Government Elements (AGE) which hampers humanitarian operations and access to affected populations. As of May 2007, approximately 41% of districts were inaccessible to the UN on a permanent/semi-permanent basis. In January 2007, 1,500 families were displaced in the Southern province of Helmand as a result of armed conflict. Around 15,000 families were displaced due to the fighting in the south in the latter part of 2006. Civilians are victims of armed conflict on both sides and are allegedly used as human shields during conflict by anti-government elements (AGE). According to the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), 600 civilians have been killed in the military operations and suicide attacks up to June either by Government/coalition forces or by AGE.

There are more than 1.3 million illegal Afghan migrants living in Iran. The Government of Iran started the deportation of illegal Afghan migrants since 21st April 2007 where 136,812 individuals (3,933 families) have been deported so far. The Government of Pakistan is also planning to close 4 Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan likely to result in an estimated 150,000 Afghans returning to Afghanistan. The Government is planning to launch a joint appeal to address this situation and to date assistance to deportees/returnees has been dependent on the UN and other international partners.

School incidents and threats against students and teachers continue to terrorize education in Afghanistan. Thirty one attacks against schools, mainly torching schools and explosions were reported in all parts of the country during 2007 up to June. Deliberate attacks on girl students and women teachers resulted in at least 4 deaths and 6 injuries. Only in the four southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul, out of a total of 740 schools, it is estimated that 262 (unconfirmed) of them are no longer providing education services to students.

Polio eradication remains a major challenge in Afghanistan. A massive 4-stage polio campaign to vaccinate more than 7 million children under the age of five has been undertaken by the Government of Afghanistan, UNICEF and WHO. Five cases of polio (four type 1& one type 3) have been confirmed since the beginning of 2007 in the districts of Kajaki and Nade-Ali of Helmand, Maiwand of Kandahar, Mehtarlam of Laghman and Jalalabad of Nangarhar province.

Despite the complex nature of emergencies in Afghanistan, the Government is enhancing its capacity in emergency coordination and response. The National Emergency Commission under the leadership of the Vice-President played an important role in emergency response against floods, returnees as well as joint resource mobilization with the UN and international NGOs.