Afghanistan Refugees Appeal
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.
Afghanistan refugees snapshot
- More than 7 million Afghans of varying status are residing in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in search of protection and asylum. With the humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan still dire and fluid, new refugee influxes are expected in 2023. Hosting countries will require additional preparedness and response support to meet the urgent needs of asylum-seekers and host communities.
- UNICEF supports affected populations through direct humanitarian assistance, partnerships with humanitarian actors and support to national systems to prepare for and respond to the growing needs of Afghan and host community children and their families. UNICEF’s assistance is multisectoral, child-centred, rights-based and sustainable.
- UNICEF is requesting US$66.2 million to support national partners in meeting the critical needs of the most vulnerable refugees and their host communities.
Key planned results for 2023
385,059 children screened for wasting
235,882 children/caregivers accessing community-based mental health and psychosocial support
490,390 children accessing formal or non-formal education, including early learning
1.5 million people reached with critical WASH supplies
Funding requirements for 2023
Country needs and strategy
The dire humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan, coupled with its volatile political environment, continues to drive Afghan children and families into neighbouring countries in search of protection and asylum. Seven million Afghans of varying status live in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, including 2.1 million registered Afghan refugees. The Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan receive the highest number of cross-border movements. Since August 2021, more than 1.3 million Afghans have arrived in the neighbouring countries. The hosting capacity of these countries - which are themselves affected by the economic impact of rising fuel and food prices, natural hazards and limited access to social services - has also been strained by the ongoing impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Approximately 2,000 people cross from Afghanistan into the Islamic Republic of Iran every day, and the country hosts nearly 3.6 million Afghans, including more than 1 million who have arrived since 2021. Children make up about 40 per cent of the new arrivals and risk violence, stigma and family separation; experience the lack access to basic services; and risk being subject to child labour. Children also comprise a large proportion (49 per cent) of Pakistan’s 3.3 million Afghan population, which includes an estimated 1.6 million undocumented Afghans and those of other status. The provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have the highest multidimensional poverty levels – yet they host the vast majority (77 per cent) of the existing Afghan refugee population in Pakistan. The enduring presence of refugees mainly in urban areas has inevitably overstretched Pakistan’s available resources, especially the provision of health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education services.
While countries in Central Asia (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) host a smaller caseload – nearly 26,000 Afghan nationals in total as of mid-2022 –a significant influx could place pressure on countries’ basic services and infrastructure, already reeling from the upheaval of the recent pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which continue to impact the political and socioeconomic conditions of these countries. In addition, Afghans arriving in Central Asian countries face difficulties in securing their legal status and livelihoods due to limited protection mechanisms for refugees and asylum-seekers. They also urgently need access to education, health, WASH, child protection and gender-based violence prevention and response services, because systems are not equipped to receive large numbers of refugees.
An expected new influx of refugees and asylum-seekers from Afghanistan into the neighbouring countries will put additional strain on all the refugee-hosting countries covered in this appeal.
UNICEF will continue working with national governments, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, other United Nations agencies and civil society organizations to ensure the rights of Afghan children and families on the move are protected. Guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF will continue to provide life-saving health, nutrition, WASH, child protection (including gender-based violence response) and social protection services to existing Afghan caseloads and host communities, ensuring social cohesion through an inclusive humanitarian response.
To address health and nutrition needs, UNICEF will strengthen primary health care and nutrition services, including preparedness for or provision of routine polio and measles immunization, enhancing partners’ capacity to identify, refer and treat children with wasting and severe wasting, provision of nutrition supplies and promotion of infant and young child feeding.
To ensure learning continuity, UNICEF will support improvements to existing education and early childhood development facilities to cater to refugee children, establish temporary learning spaces and support integration of refugee children into national education systems when they arrive.
UNICEF will support rehabilitation of WASH infrastructure in potential or existing refugee hosting sites and pre-position or distribute hygiene supplies to targeted facilities in host communities settings and at border crossing points.
Strengthening child protection and gender-based violence services and mechanisms at the provincial and community levels will also be a priority. This encompasses capacity building of front-line responders on child protection in emergencies, providing mental health and psychosocial support, identifying appropriate care and guardianship for unaccompanied and separated children and addressing cases of gender-based violence. UNICEF will also prioritize humanitarian cash support for families in partnership with other agencies, where required.
Furthermore, UNICEF will continue to reinforce readiness for potential future influxes by pre-positioning critical supplies and strengthening national reception, screening, registration and humanitarian response systems and services to address the needs of vulnerable children and families, including those with disabilities. Existing regional and national partnerships will be leveraged to enhance countries’ preparedness in case of a massive flow of refugees from Afghanistan. UNICEF will continue to advocate for humanitarian support for people on the move, as an issue high on national agendas and, where possible, integrated into national priorities. Promoting social inclusion and integration through access to social services and longer-termsolutions for refugees and host communities will also be prioritized.
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 Afghanistan refugees; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.