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© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0997/Noorani
Girls attend classes outdoors and in tents at Pul-e-Rangeena Government Primary School for Girls in the north-western city of Herat, capital of Herat Province.

The Situation

History: Afghanistan was founded in 1747. The country served as a buffer between the British and Russian empires until it won independence from notional British control in 1919. Beginning of the sixties, a brief experiment of liberal monarchy ended in 1973 by a coup which established the Republic of Afghanistan, with the support of the Afghan Communist Party. The assassination in April 1978 of the leading ideologist of the Communist Party ended by a Communist counter-coup which led to the Soviet Union invasion in 1979, aiming to support the tottering Afghan Communist regime, touching off a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure from the international community and the United States which were supporting anti-Communist Mujahedin rebels. A series of subsequent civil wars saw Kabul finally fall in 1996 to the Taliban, a hard-line Islamic movement that emerged in 1994. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, a NATO coalition and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama Bin Laden. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid KARZAI became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December. The second presidential and provincial council elections were held on 20 August 2009.

Millennium Development Goals: Afghanistan ranks 174th out of 178 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index 2007. It has over 27 millions inhabitants and over half of the population is under 18 years old. With 191 out of 1,000 children dying before their 5th year, Afghanistan’s child mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Together with India, Nigeria and Pakistan, it is in the list of countries where polio continues to be endemic. The maternal mortality ratio is of 1,600 per 100,000 live births or one of the five highest in the world. 15,000 people die each year of tuberculosis. According to a UNICEF rapid assessment done in June 2008, 16 percent of children between six and 69 months old are affected by global acute malnutrition. 70 percent of the population has no access to safe drinking water and only eight per cent of households have access to latrines. The net enrolment in primary education stands at 53 per cent for urban children, whereas it is only six per cent for nomadic children. Two million primary school-age children are not attending school, 1.3 million of whom are girls. An estimated 7.4 million people, or 30 percent of the population are food-insecure, six million amongst them live in rural areas.

Humanitarian situation: With recurrent natural disasters (drought, floods, earthquakes) and conflict, Afghanistan is prone to emergencies (1) Natural disaster : In April/May 2009, ten of the country’s 34 provinces have been affected by floods, landslides and avalanches, killing numerous people and hundreds of livestock, while damaging vital agricultural land. (2) Conflict: Civilian deaths resulting from armed hostilities between insurgents, international military troops, and government forces have increased by 24 percent to over 1,000 so far this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to a recent report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan [UNAMA]. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, insecurity has gradually taken over the country, particularly the south and the east. Today there are 235,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Afghanistan and 2.6 million Afghan refugees in the region, registered mostly in Pakistan and Iran. 

Economy: Gross National Income is estimated to be US$ 250 per capita and an estimated 42 percent of Afghans live below the poverty line, while 45 percent are food insecure. Since April 2008, food prices have risen by 30-50 percent. Growth in Gross Domestic Product declined from 13 percent in 2007 to nine percent in 2008. The average rate of inflation in 2008 was ten percent, compared to five percent in 2006, mainly due to increases in the prices of imported fuel and food.

Key challenges: Effective humanitarian responses are hampered by inadequate systematic data and an ineffective humanitarian information management system.  Assessment and emergency responses are severely restricted as due to insecurity only 43 percent of the country is accessible for UN missions.  Limited governmental technical and implementation capacity, especially with respect to delivery of community based services further hampers effectiveness.


UNICEF Offices:
• Kabul [Centre]
• Kandahar [South]
• Herat [West]
• Mazar [North]
• Jalalabad [East]

Basic Indicators

UNICEF in Action

The initial UNICEF country programme 2006-2008 was extended over 2009 to align the programme cycle with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) framework. (2008-2013). the current Country programme has five components:
Health and Nutrition programmes contribute to survival and development of children and women wellbeing  1) Increased access and utilization of primarily community-based Integrated Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition services including promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding practices; 2) Reduced burden of vaccine preventable diseases (polio, measles Diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis and Homophiles influenza) improve the quality of existing services and expand immunization coverage 3) Facility and community based management of severs acute malnutrition; 4) Increased utilization of facility-based reproductive health and child health services; 5); School health intervention packages; 6) Promote access and unitization of iodized salt at household level and 7) HIV prevention.
Basic Education and Gender Equality programmes aim to increase primary school net enrolment for girls by 20 percent and literacy rates among adults especially females, 15-49 years of age by 50 percent through: 1) Support to sector reform and community development, 2) Improvement of quality of primary education with a special focus on girls, and 3) Women’s literacy and empowerment.  The interventions to restore education in emergency will include 1) an education in emergency response strategy to ensure continuity, 2) School protection through communities, and 3) Coordination through the Cluster approach.
Water and Environmental Sanitation programmes intend to increase access to, and use of safe water and basic sanitation services, and promote improved hygiene practices, via 1) Hygiene Education and Institutional Capacity Building, 2) School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and 3) Health-Care water facilities and Community-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services.

Child Protection programme aims to support the Government of Afghanistan and civil society in developing and implement appropriate protection policies, legislation and measures to safeguard women and children from violence, exploitation and abuse. The programme also has targeted support for the sub-national child protection system such as provincial/district Child Protection Action Networks (CPAN). The programme has three projects: Social Protection; Child labor and Child Trafficking.

To increase awareness and respect of the rights of Afghan women and children an inclusive Communication for Development (C4D) strategy has been designed to assist the Government in the acceleration of child and maternal survival through behavior development at the family and community level.

Emergency response: A standing level of preparedness to assist an initial 100,000 people is being maintained by UNICEF, including stockpiles of essential drugs, nutrition supplies, education material and non-food supplies in strategic provincial hubs. Any emergency response is carried out in coordination with the government and the eight humanitarian clusters.

UNICEF in Emergencies

In May 2009, approximately 22,000 households in 13 provinces (North, Northeast and Western regions) were affected by floods. In response UNICEF provided 4,500 families with High Energy biscuits, Emergency Health Kits, and NFI (family kits, jerry cans, blankets, cooking stoves, tarpaulin, floor mats, plastic sheeting and tents). In some cases the provision of assistance was delayed due to lack of access, caused by insecurity and damaged road-infrastructure. .

In June 2009, flash floods in Eastern Region and the district of Bamyan affected around 350 families and two schools. UNICEF provided NFI (blankets, family kits, tents, jerry cans and stove gas cylinders) to 96 families and 13 school tents to provide temporary learning space for 1 200 students.

In July 2009, fighting between international troops and insurgents in the Southern province of Helmand resulted in the internal displacement of over 4,000 families. Based on a joint rapid assessment with WFP, UNICEF provided NFI (family kits, blankets, floor mats, tarpaulin and jerry cans) to 2,560 families.
UNICEF in Afghanistan
• UNICEF maintains a working distribution network in Afghanistan since 1949. Today it has one central and five Zonal Offices, covering 34 Provinces, in the South (ZO Kandahar), West (ZO Herat), East (ZO Jalalabad), North (ZO Mazar) and Center (ZO Kabul), as well as ten outposts.
• The CO currently has 260 staff members, including 219 Nationals and 31 Internationals.
• The two official languages are Dari, spoken by about 50 percent of the population and Pashto, 35 percent. Since 2001 English has become increasingly important
• Able to do media interviews? Yes . Language spoken in Communication section: English, French, German, Arabic, Dari and Pashtu.

The UN Humanitarian Country Team (UNHCT) is the leading body coordinating humanitarian issues in the country and includes members from UN, national and international NGOs, donors and the Red Cross movement.  Since the roll-out of the cluster-approach in March 2008, UNICEF is leading the WASH and Nutrition clusters, as well as the child protection sub-cluster; it is co-leading the Education cluster with Save the Children UK. As of today 1,348 social organizations and 1,285 NGO are registered in Afghanistan. Major NGO partners for UNICEF include Save the Children UK and Norway/Sweden, Terre des Hommes, CARE International, International Medical Corps, Merlin etc. Community based organizations play an important role in implementation, especially of water and sanitation projects. The national Emergency Commission chaired by the Vice-President in Kabul, and Provincial Disaster Management Teams chaired by provincial governors, is the principal
coordination body with Government entities at national and sub-national levels.

For more information, please contact

Farida Ayari,
UNICEF Afghanistan,
Chief of Communication,
Tel: +93 798 50 7110,

Cornelia Walther,
UNICEF Afghanistan,
Communication Specialist,
Tel: +93 798 507112,

Sarah Crowe,
Regional Communications Chief,
Tel: +919910532314,





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