Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it
provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition,
education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
- In Afghanistan, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 9.4 million in 2019 to 14 million in 2020. Violence continues to disproportionately impact children and women, who represent over 40 per cent of all civilian casualties recorded during the first half of 2020.
- The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has put additional strain on the already weak health system and exacerbated the underlying protection and gender-based vulnerabilities of children and women.
- UNICEF remains at forefront of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, and will continue to reach vulnerable children and families affected by multiple shocks with urgent, life-saving services. Priorities will include promoting gender equality, strengthening the linkages between humanitarian action and development programming, building community resilience and localizing the response.
- UNICEF requires US$143.6 million to meet the humanitarian needs of women and children in Afghanistan in 2021.
Key planned results for 2021
430,000 children admitted for treatment for severe acute malnutrition
250,000 children vaccinated against measles
400,000 people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water
600,000 children accessing educational services
Funding requirements for 2021
Country needs and strategy
In Afghanistan, the ongoing conflict, limited access to basic services and the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbating vulnerabilities. While the recent peace talks are cause for optimism, the scale, severity and complexity of the humanitarian situation remain staggering. Between January and October 2020, nearly 225,000 people fled their homes due to conflict. Across the country, over 4.1 million people are internally displaced.
The health system is struggling to absorb internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees, as well as additional caseloads related to COVID-19. Lack of health service coverage and capacities are limiting access to essential health care, particularly in hard-toreach areas. Child immunization declined by 22 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the same period of 2019, primarily due to COVID-19 and related quarantine measures.
Food insecurity is alarmingly high in Afghanistan. Over 42 per cent of the population is facing crisis and worse levels of food insecurity. Twenty-seven out of 34 provinces are now experiencing acute malnutrition levels that exceed the emergency threshold. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a 13 per cent increase in the estimated number of children under 5 years who are severely malnourished.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government closed all schools across the country for six months, affecting more than 7.5 million children attending public schools, particularly girls, and 500,000 children enrolled in community based-education. When schools reopen, the majority of vulnerable children will require remediation and catch-up classes to prevent them from falling behind or dropping out entirely. In addition, over 35 per cent of schools and health facilities lack reliable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.
The protracted crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have heightened underlying protection vulnerabilities. Returnees, especially children, are at higher risk of death and injury due to explosive remnants of war. An estimated 74 per cent of children experience violent discipline, including psychological aggression and/or physical punishment, in their homes. Vulnerable and marginalized groups, including women, girls, those living in poverty, the internally displaced, female-headed households and people with disabilities, are vulnerable to gender-based violence and the use of negative coping mechanisms for survival.
The crisis has also aggravated pre-existing gender inequalities that undermine women and girls' access to essential services. For women, access to health and protection services has been decimated: 67 per cent of women are unable to access health services without a male escort.
Working closely with partners and donors, UNICEF will reach the most vulnerable children and women in Afghanistan with an integrated package of life-saving services. The response will target those affected by conflict, natural disasters and the impacts of COVID-19 in hard-to-reach areas, areas of return, settlements of internally displaced persons and remote local communities.
Treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and infant and young child feeding counselling will be delivered through a basic package of health services and an essential package of hospital services. SAM interventions will complement moderate acute malnutrition services.
UNICEF will support front-line health services, including mobile health interventions, in targeted geographical areas. Child-focused interventions will include supplemental campaigns for measles and other vaccines, as well as newborn care. By providing a continuous supply of critical medicines and medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, UNICEF will ensure the availability of life-saving health care services to respond to current and future waves of COVID-19.
With partners, UNICEF will provide an integrated multi-sectoral lifesaving package of WASH services in targeted emergency locations. In schools and health facilities, WASH interventions will be strengthened to improve the quality of education and health services.
In education, UNICEF will target districts with significant needs, particularly for girls' education. Access to education will be improved by strengthening the quality community-based learning opportunities, applying safe-school guidelines, providing clean water/hygiene facilities, building teachers’ pedagogical skills, and distributing free teaching and learning supplies.
Children affected by violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation will be supported with prevention and response services; and prevention, mitigation and response to sexual and gender-based violence will be strengthened. UNICEF will also prioritize mine risk education targeting boys and girls who are in and out of school.
As lead of the Risk Communication and Community Engagement Pillar within the global COVID-19 response, UNICEF will support the development and implementation of mechanisms to improve accountability to affected populations and the dissemination of integrated awareness-raising messages on hygiene, handwashing, community mobilization and health care.
All programmes will be gender- and adolescent-responsive and where possible, delivered through women's networks, relevant civil society organizations and adolescent and youth platforms.
UNICEF will continue to lead the WASH and nutrition clusters and the child protection area of responsibility and co-lead the education in emergencies working group with Save the Children. Humanitarian preparedness and response, including emergency cash assistance, will be linked with development programmes.
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Afghanistan; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.