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Women and children in Coka village, Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, wait to be seen by a UNICEF-supported mobile health and nutrition team.

UNICEF in Afghanistan

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.

Crisis in Afghanistan 

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.

Chronic poverty and unemployment means no money for food or fuel

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 deteriorate, 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.

An acutely malnourished 1-year-old girl sits in her mother's lap as they meet with a UNICEF nutrition officer at a UNICEF-supported clinic in Kandahar, Afghanistan to discuss treatment.

Nazia, hold her 1-year-old daughter Aqsad as she speaks with a UNICEF Nutrition Officer at the Mirza Mohammad Khan clinic in Kandahar, Afghanistan. After being diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, Aqsad received three rounds of treatment with Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF), a protein-rich peanut paste provided by UNICEF. © UNICEF/UN0562570/Romenzi

8 in 10 Afghans drink contaminated water

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.

How UNICEF is helping children and families in Afghanistan

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 and to advocate for the rights of women and girls. 

UNICEF's humanitarian action plan targets for children in Afghanistan include:

  • nutrition: admitting more than 1 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition for treatment, providing Vitamin A supplements to over 5 million children
  • health: reaching 15 million children with primary health care services and vaccinate over 10 million children against measles
  • water: enabling over 11 million people to access a sufficient quantity of safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, ensuring safe and appropriate sanitation for over 7 million and reaching over 9 million people with critical WASH supplies
  • protection: connecting over 4 million children to mental health services and psychosocial support and providing humanitarian cash transfers to 160,000 impoverished households
  • education: providing learning materials and teacher training to support both formal and non-formal education services to over 7 million children and providing emergency stipends to public-school teachers to help keep them on the job

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.

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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.

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