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.
- 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. In 2022, 8.7 million people will be in emergency level food insecurity and 1 in 2 children under 5 years will be acutely malnourished. The full impact of the political transition has not yet materialized, with considerable socioeconomic shocks expected to affect children's survival.
- The needs of vulnerable Afghan children and their families are unprecedented. In response, UNICEF will uphold the humanitarian imperative and prioritize life-saving activities. This will help ensure urgent scale-up of WASH, health, nutrition, education and child protection services by preventing collapse of critical systems and safeguard hard-won gains, including protecting the rights of women and girls.
- US$2 billion is urgently needed to meet the humanitarian needs of 15.3 million people in Afghanistan.
Key planned results for 2022
1.1 million children admitted for treatment for severe acute malnutrition
10.5 million children vaccinated against measles
11.5 million people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water
7.5 million children accessing educational services
Funding requirements for 2022
Country needs and strategy
The degree of suffering is nearly unprecedented. The political and socioeconomic developments of 2021, with leadership transitions and implications on basic services and financial systems, have brought further turmoil to a country that has experienced four decades of prolonged conflict, recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, and disease outbreaks including the devastating effects of COVID-19. More than half of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection – a 25 per cent increase since early 2021. Population movements will continue throughout 2022, with over 650,000 estimated to be displaced by economic hardships, shocks and insecurity and 785,400 expected to return from abroad. Based on recent events, simulations suggest that without urgent action, Afghanistan could see near universal poverty of 97 per cent by mid-2022, up from 47 per cent in 2020. The loss of purchasing power with rising poverty has coincided with soaring prices of basic commodities, further heightening humanitarian needs. Harsh winter conditions with temperatures far below freezing worsen these vulnerabilities yet further. The current crisis and its uncertainties for women’s rights creates a conducive environment for heightened gender-based violence, which already affects 46 per cent of Afghan women.
Without access to minimum life-saving services, Afghans will suffer cataclysmic effects. Thirty-five million people rely on basic primary health care services for life-saving care; without sustained access to these services, an estimated 112 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 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.
UNICEF remains committed to stay and deliver support aimed at saving lives, alleviating suffering, maintaining human dignity, and protecting rights of affected populations. This includes responding to immediate humanitarian needs and sustaining essential services at scale to prevent public systems from collapsing, in line with humanitarian principles and capitalizing on the increased access currently available. UNICEF will support a range of activities, including payment of incentives for critical workers for six months to prevent the loss of life and maintain services essential for humanitarian response. In coordination with partners on the ground, UNICEF will deliver an integrated gender-sensitive package of health, nutrition, WASH, education and child protection services to the most vulnerable populations.
UNICEF will prioritize life-saving health and nutrition activities through static facilities and mobile teams. This includes screening and treating children for severe acute malnutrition, providing basic primary health care services including routine immunizations, referrals and counselling on infant and young child feeding, as well responding to outbreaks such as measles and acute watery diarrhoea (AWD). With limited access to safe water and poor sanitation practices, urgently scaling up access to safe water (including through ensuring functional WASH systems) and sanitation is a key priority to respond to current disease outbreaks and prevent further spread.
UNICEF is committed to ensuring that all children, especially girls, have access to quality education through sustaining access to public education and the expansion of community-based education (CBE) classes. UNICEF will target out of school children through accelerated learning centres and increase the number of qualified female teachers. Keeping public schools and CBE classes operational to ensure all children return to learning requires also financial support to teachers. Child protection will scale-up gender-based violence prevention, response and mitigation and case management activities. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) will be provided by social and community workers in child, youth, and women safe spaces. UNICEF will scale-up explosive ordnance risks education (EORE) to prevent serious injury or death and continue identifying, verifying, reporting and responding to grave violations against children.
UNICEF will expand the use of humanitarian cash transfers to facilitate a more rapid and dignified response. This includes meeting sector-specific needs as well as multi-purpose cash transfers to cover basic needs of the most vulnerable struggling to meet their daily needs in response to multiple shocks, including winter. UNICEF will take a multi-pronged approach to ensure key life-saving messages are reaching the affected and at-risk communities. UNICEF will ensure accountability to affected populations and continuity of confidential, safe and accessible reporting mechanisms for prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
As a cross-cutting programme strategy implementation, UNICEF will use a dedicated Project Management Unit (PMU) capacity to support the operational delivery of key activities related to payments of emergency incentives for health workers, teachers, WASH technicians, and social workers among others, beneficiary data management, and provide an overall agile risk management mechanism.
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.