Rapidly deteriorating conditions for children and families in Afghanistan have created one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.
The degree of suffering in the country is nearly unprecedented. Political and socioeconomic developments in 2021, with leadership transitions and implications on basic services and financial systems, 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.
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. The current crisis and uncertainties around women’s rights heightens risks of gender-based violence, which already affects nearly half of all Afghan women. The future for girls' education is also uncertain.
Rates of acute malnutrition among children under age 5 are soaring as a result of widespread food insecurity. As living conditions continue to deterioriate, more children are likely to succumb to otherwise treatable conditions like pneumonia and acute watery diarrhea. Tens of thousands of measles cases reflect drops in immunization coverage as health services remain strained or disrupted.
Insufficient access to safe water and sanitation services in many areas is another major problem contributing to poor health and well-being of children and families. Drought has compounded needs, with over half of all water points across three provinces have dried up, and the breakdown of water services in urban areas has reduced available water supply by half, while increasing contaimination from wastewater.
UNICEF is on the ground in Afghanistan working with partners to shore up essential services for children and to provide lifesaving support and protection for the most vulnerable.
UNICEF's current funding appeal for Afghanistan seeks support to scale up nutrition, health, water and sanitation, education and child protection services and prevent the collapse of critical systems, while also safeguarding hard-won social gains achieved in recent years — including protecting the rights of women and girls.
Key targets of UNICEF's 2022 humanitarian action plan for children in Afghanistan include:
Even before COVID-19 hit, access to education for Afghan children and adolescents was a challenge. Cultural practices, displacement, inaccessibility and lack of facilities have kept millions out of school. UNICEF's Let Us Learn program continues to build out community-based learning opportunities for students in remote communities.
Prolonged school closures and absences often result in children — particularly girls — not returning to the classroom. The combined impacts of the pandemic the country's socioeconomic crisis have nearly obliterated coping mechanisms and given rise to child labor 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.
You can help. The needs of vulnerable Afghan children and their families are unprecedented. Support UNICEF's efforts to deliver essential nutrition and health services, protection and education to vulnerable children in Afghanistan. 100% of your gift is tax-deductible.