People in Afghanistan continue to suffer from over three decades of armed conflict and frequent natural disasters.
So far, fighting between non-state-armed groups and Afghan and international security forces was confined to southern and eastern Afghanistan. But the conflict has now spread to the northern and western regions, and the envisaged withdrawal of the international forces by 2014 may lead to a further deterioration in the security situation. More people fled their homes in 2012 than in previous year. The latest figures from the UN refugee agency suggest that 482,000 Afghans are displaced within their own country. Devastated by the long-drawn conflict, inhabitants of affected provinces need psychosocial care and protection from violence. Basic services like food, medicines, healthcare, drinking water and shelter are also urgently required.
The effects of floods, droughts, avalanches and sandstorms that occur with alarming frequency in Afghanistan are magnified by the government's limited mitigation capacity. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people affected by natural disasters require international humanitarian assistance.
Afghan refugees in Pakistan (1.7 million) and Iran (840 000 persons) who have chosen to voluntarily return also need support to rebuild their lives.
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) has provided independent, neutral and impartial life-saving assistance in Afghanistan for 17 years and totalling €520 million.
The € 30 million channelled to ECHO's partners in 2012 provided protection services to displaced people, detainees in prisons and refugees who were forced to return. Families affected by conflict and natural disasters received food, healthcare, drinking water and shelter. A proportion of the fund was also set aside for returning refugees to support their shelter and water needs. A further € 30 million is allocated for humanitarian assistance in 2013.
ECHO helps humanitarian organisations in accessing people who are most in need despite the challenges of insecurity by financing coordination and safety services as well as flight services to carry relief supplies.Over the years, ECHO has advocated the respect of international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles with all parties to the conflict. It has done so to safeguard the independent space required to access people in desperate need of assistance.