Nearly 40 years of conflict have deeply affected Afghanistan. Despite the stabilisation objectives of the country announced by the international community, the security situation continues to deteriorate. 2016 was indeed a particularly bloody year and 2017 has begun with violence. Afghan civilians have paid a heavy price, as have health structures and humanitarian aid workers.
A fragile population
Successive waves of violence have resulted in large population displacements, both within the country and into neighbouring countries (Iran and Pakistan). 2016 saw a new record in terms of population movement: more than 630,000 people fled their villages to safer places and more than 560,000 Afghans left Pakistan. Forced to return to their country of origin after more than 30 years, it is estimated that a total of 5.7 million of in Afghanistan’s exiled population have now returned and now find themselves in serious difficulties, finding suitable shelter, providing for themselves and their families and having access to basic services. In addition, frequent waves of drought and natural disasters (floods, landslides, earthquakes) make the daily lives of millions of families across the country ever more difficult. The United Nations estimates that more than 250,000 people are affected by natural disasters every year in the different regions of Afghanistan.
The current conflict continues to prevent NGOs from accessing certain areas of the country in order to assess the needs of populations and to implement their programs. Essential services remain inaccessible for parts of the population, especially for rural communities and displaced persons. 2015 and 2016 were both record years in terms of the number of attacks on health services and workers (125 attacks were reported in 2015, compared with the 59 reported in 2014 and 33 in 2013. During the first half of 2016 alone 64 attacks were reported).
The child victims of the conflict
The most vulnerable are once again the first victims: since 2013 the number of child victims has continued to increase year after year. In the first nine months of 2016, 2,461 child victims were counted, an increase of 15% compared to the figure in 2015. One of the most striking examples of the impact of the conflict on future generations of the country is in the area of nutrition. Concerning rates of acute malnutrition and, above all, severe acute malnutrition, have been noted across all of Afghanistan; sometimes well above emergency thresholds, particularly in camps for displaced persons. In 2015, the number of children killed by the conflict was less than 1% of the number of children dying of malnutrition each year in Afghanistan. The country has the second highest infant mortality rate in the world, representing thousands of child deaths each year. Monitoring nutrition in Afghanistan found that conflict and insecurity are the major obstacles when it comes to accessing necessary services and also play a large role in causing chronic malnutrition and stunting.
ECHO in Afghanistan
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) is one of the few humanitarian donors to consistently support projects in Afghanistan since 1994. It allocates its funds strictly on the basis of the humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality. In 2016, the Commission allocated € 32 million to heed the basic needs of the Afghan population. The latest allocation brings the total aid funding for the country in the last decade to €725 million.