Nearly four decades of protracted conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in constant insecurity and large-scale displacement within the country and to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. The conflict has intensified recently and continues to force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Recurrent natural hazards also put a major strain on the already-dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
The partial withdrawal of international forces in 2014 led to a deterioration in the security situation; however, fighting persists between government forces supported by the international community and armed opposition groups which compounds insecurity. Civilians bear the brunt of these heightened confrontations: according to the UN, more than 8000 civilians were killed or injured in the first three quarters of 2017, which is close to record levels. Moreover, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that some 344 000 have become newly displaced since January 2017. Devastated by the protracted conflict, these displaced people are reliant on humanitarian assistance and need protection from violence. Basic services like health care, water and shelter are urgently needed in most areas. At the national level, eight million Afghans are food insecure, and a strong need for livelihood support remains throughout the country. Some 5.8 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, including some 620 000 who have come back from Pakistan in 2016 alone. The influx of the returnees has strained the capacity of existing services and caused concerns over the living conditions of those returning, often after many decades. Meanwhile, a further 2.35 million Afghans are still living as refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan and an additional 2.7 million without registration.
Moreover, droughts and regular natural disasters including floods, landslides and earthquakes further erode the resilience of millions of Afghans. The United Nations estimate that over 250 000 people are affected by natural disasters every year in different parts of the country.
In order to maintain its focus on response to the most acute humanitarian needs in the country, the European Commission made available €29.5 million in 2017 to ensure much-needed relief assistance is provided to the most vulnerable populations. In 2017, Commission-funded interventions focus on providing emergency medical care, food and water, protection, shelter and sanitation to people affected by conflict and natural disasters and to the newly displaced in particular. With an aim to restore access to education for children caught up in conflict, emergency education projects have been introduced in targeted areas. The Commission has also facilitates access for humanitarian organisations to people in need through air transport services.
The EU funds the emergency response mechanism (ERM) which ensures that a network of international aid organisations, with operations covering the whole of Afghanistan, have sufficient prepositioned resources (trained teams, cash, noon-food items, emergency shelter and emergency water and sanitation equipment) to allow a timely response to urgent humanitarian needs arising from localised disasters and conflicts and that the most vulnerable receive dedicated protection assistance. In 2016, the ERM reached and responded to the urgent needs of over 224 000 people across the country. Since the beginning of 2017, already around 261 000 people across the country have benefited from the ERM. Humanitarian assistance has also been provided to the most vulnerable returning refugees and undocumented Afghans who require assistance in terms of immediate humanitarian needs, health and protection.
EU Humanitarian Aid provided over €1 million in 2016-2017 to reduce the risks arising from natural disasters. Funded projects are often implemented by the communities themselves and include, among other things, setting up local early warning systems, building adapted infrastructure and contingency planning. Overall, the EU has contributed over €6.8 million since 2007 to this end. Since 2016, over €1.95 million have also been allocated to deliver basic and quality education to vulnerable children, including Pakistani refugees, who had dropped out of school due to displacement. The initiatives have been introduced in the conflict-torn provinces of Khost, Nangarhar, Jawzjan and Kandahar, benefiting 11 500 students and over 200 teachers.
The European Commission has funded humanitarian operations in Afghanistan since 1994, with total funding to date exceeding €756 million. Funds are allocated strictly on the basis of the humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality to ensure access to those in need.