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. More than 64 percent of the population cannot meet their basic needs due to cascading crises that have shifted from conflict to economic shocks fueled by droughts, floods and other climate shocks.

Political and socioeconomic developments in recent years created further turmoil in a country that has experienced decades of prolonged conflict, natural disasters, chronic poverty and disease outbreaks — including the devastating effects of COVID-19. Rates of acute malnutrition among children under age 5 continue to soar due to widespread food insecurity, and the health system is severely strained, under resourced and under staffed.

Girls' rights to education and protection under threat in Afghanistan

The situation for women and girls continues to deteriorate: restrictions have created barriers to accessing services, curtailed basic freedoms and deprived many women of income-earning opportunities. Girls remain banned from attending secondary school, creating significant learning and protection risks and likely impacting generations to come.

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

Unsafe water and inadequate sanitation is another major problem, contributing to poor health and well-being of children and families in many areas of the country.

Drought — exacerbated by climate change — has compounded needs, with over half of all water points across three provinces have dried up. The breakdown of water services in urban areas has reduced available water supply by half, while increasing contamination from wastewater.

Afghanistan is ranked number 5 of the countries that are most climate at-risk worldwide, with a higher warming rate than the global average. Floods and other natural hazards affected more than 223,000 people in 2022 – double the five-year average.

"The most pressing needs arise not from conflict as you may think," UNICEF Afghanistan Communications Chief Samantha Mort says, "but from a devastating economic crisis fueled by climate-related threats."

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, though the operating environment in Afghanistan remains highly complex.

While physical access to people in need has largely improved, bureaucratic impediments, threats and intimidation of humanitarian workers and restrictions on female humanitarian workers have increased significantly, hindering the delivery of critical lifesaving services. UNICEF continues to advocate for unimpeded and principled access to people in need in Afghanistan.

UNICEF's requires additional donor support to continue scaling up nutrition, health, water and sanitation, education and child protection services, to prevent the collapse of critical systems and to advocate for the rights of women and girls. 

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You can help UNICEF meet the urgent needs of vulnerable Afghan children and their families. 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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