Children in Afghanistan
The Situation of Children and Women in Afghanistan
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated significantly with the recent political and socioeconomic developments. Essential services are on the brink of collapse, exacerbating the needs of an already vulnerable population.
More than half of the population, 24.4 million people, need humanitarian assistance, including 12.9 million children. Multiple disease outbreaks (measles, acute watery diarrhoea, dengue, COVID-19) are ongoing.
Without access to minimum life-saving services, Afghans will suffer cataclysmic effects. 35 million people rely on basic primary health care services for life-saving care; without sustained access to these services, an estimated 212 children will die every day.
The deteriorating situation has left 8.7 million people in emergency food insecurity level 4 (IPC 4). Undernutrition contributes to 45 per cent of child deaths in Afghanistan. Currently, acute malnutrition is above emergency thresholds in 27 of 34 provinces and rapidly worsening.
Drought has exacerbated WASH needs, with 53 per cent of water points across three provinces drying up. The breakdown of water services in urban settings has halved water availability and increased contamination from wastewater; 8 out of 10 Afghans now drink bacteriologically contaminated water.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to education was a challenge, with cultural practices, displacement, inaccessibility and lack of facilities keeping 4.2 million (60 per cent girls) out of school. Without sustained access to education, 7.9 million more children risk missing out on critical education. Prolonged school closures and absences often result in children, particularly girls, not returning to complete their education – with lasting impacts on children.
These impacts, combined with the socioeconomic crisis, have nearly obliterated coping mechanisms and given rise to child labour and early marriage. With the economy and many public service sectors verging on collapse due to non-payment of salaries and empty government coffers, Afghanistan's people face an uncertain future.
Even before the current crisis, Afghanistan faced myriad challenges to the realization of children’s and women’s rights, with children being subject to all six grave violations affecting children in conflict.
In 2020, almost half of the Afghan population was living in humanitarian need due to conflict, natural disasters, food insecurity, high cross-border mobility and the social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19. Poverty is also widespread, with almost one in two Afghans living below the national poverty line in 2019. Afghanistan remains in a fragile state and the economy is weak as well as highly dependent on international aid. Social norms and harmful practices rooted in gender inequity are pervasive, with children and women being exposed to various extreme forms of violence and abusive behaviours, such as honour killings, child marriage, domestic abuse, and sexual violence.
For an analysis of the situation of children and women in Afghanistan from 2015 up to August 2021:
Situation analysis of Children and Women in Afghanistan, UNICEF 2021.
1.1 million children will be in need for treatment for acute malnutrition
15.1 million people will need assistance to access safe drinking water
18.1 million people will be in need of health assistance
7.9 million children will be in need of support to access learning and education