UNICEF report highlights urgent humanitarian needs in Afghanistan

Children waiting in a queue to receive food in aid in Kabul on January 18, 2022.

In the midst of concurrent crises plaguing Afghanistan, UNICEF’s latest report, “Humanitarian Action for Children 2023 – Afghanistan, Revision 1,” paints a grim picture of the country’s humanitarian situation. The report underscores the grave challenges faced by vulnerable populations, especially women and children, due to drought-like conditions, floods, insecurity, harsh winters, political and economic instability, and displacement.

According to the report, an estimated 29.2 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in 2023. The economic crisis continues to worsen, with 64 percent of households struggling to meet their basic needs, pushing vulnerable communities to the brink of survival.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said that women and girls in Afghanistan are facing a worsening systematic rights crisis, with their exclusion from secondary and tertiary education, and a ban on working with non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. These measures have significantly increased protection risks for women and children, and their consequences will be felt for generations to come.

Despite the complex operating environment, UNICEF remains dedicated to delivering life-saving activities in underserved areas, focusing on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), health, nutrition, education, and child protection.

The report emphasizes that urgent action is required to address the dire situation. A total of US$1.45 billion is urgently needed to meet the humanitarian needs of 19 million people in Afghanistan. Failure to secure this funding would leave millions of people without access to critical assistance.

The humanitarian situation has also severely affected children’s lives. The report highlights the story of 8-year-old Sadia, who used to risk her life smuggling goods at the border but now finds safety and learning opportunities at a UNICEF child-friendly space. These spaces serve as a deterrent from child labor and offer a chance for children to engage in educational and recreational activities.

UNICEF’s funding requirement for 2023 is aimed at providing life-saving protection services to over 3.6 million children and caregivers, enabling 6 million people to access safe water, and providing essential treatment for severe malnutrition to 875,000 children under five. Timely and sufficient funding is crucial to address critical pipeline gaps in WASH, nutrition, and education, and to respond effectively to sudden-onset disasters.

The report underscores the importance of addressing the acute needs of women and girls, with over 9.3 million targeted for assistance. UNICEF’s principled humanitarian response and critical life-saving funding are instrumental in preventing a catastrophic turn of events for these vulnerable populations.

In light of the alarming situation and the country’s continuing crises, UNICEF urges immediate and flexible funding support to provide essential services and alleviate suffering among the most vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan.