Persistent insecurity and ongoing conflict continue to cause large-scale suffering and displacement of people throughout Afghanistan and the wider region. The lack of protection for civilians shows an urgent need to promote International Humanitarian Law to all parties of the conflict. Attacks on healthcare and educational facilities by armed groups have recently reached a record high. The European Union’s main focus is to provide life-saving aid through emergency medical care, various protection services and cash assistance.
According to the UN, Afghanistan saw a high number of civilian casualties between January and September 2020, with close to 6,000 people killed or injured, despite the launch of official peace negotiations in September. In 2020, almost 280,000 people fled their homes due to conflict, raising the number of displaced people to around 4.1 million. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, attacks against medical and educational facilities and staff have multiplied.
The coronavirus pandemic, persisting political insecurities, and increased violence have further deteriorated the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Coronavirus import restrictions and widespread unemployment has worsened food insecurity, with close to 13 million people, or nearly 40% of the country’s population, at critical levels of food insecurity.
Since January 2020, severe weather conditions—such as heavy snowfall, flash floods and avalanches—have affected thousands of people and their homes. Some 5.8 million Afghans have returned since 2002, including more than 725,000 in 2020. The influx of the returnees has strained the capacity of existing services and caused concerns about their reintegration and living conditions. Meanwhile, close to 6.5 million Afghans still live as refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, many of them without registration or legal status.
Given the intensity of the conflict and the level of humanitarian needs, the EU’s priority is to provide life-saving assistance. In 2020, the EU allocated close to €70 million in humanitarian support to ensure critical relief assistance to the most vulnerable including the victims of war, forced displacement and natural disasters. Interventions focus on providing emergency healthcare, shelter, food assistance, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as various protection services targeting women and children.
A large portion of 2020’s funding is dedicated to addressing the health emergency posed by the ongoing pandemic. The aid focuses on treating coronavirus patients and prevent further spread of the virus through case investigation, medical equipment, training, awareness-raising activities and another critical programming.
The EU also funds the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM), which ensures timely and flexible emergency assistance to people who have been recently displaced. In 2020, the ERM reached more than 200,000 people in all provinces through the delivery of cash grants, clean water, and access to sanitation services. The ERM’s initial provision of life-saving assistance has allowed other humanitarian agencies to coordinate and plan further assistance in the mid- and long-term, and helped EU partners to deliver solid advocacy efforts for the early mobilisation of development and stabilisation funds.
Furthermore, the EU supports life-saving health services, whilst ensuring access to healthcare for people in areas where regular government services are disrupted due to conflict. Health facilities continue to report record-high admission levels of conflict-related trauma cases. EU humanitarian funding supports the delivery of emergency treatment and related psychological assistance to nearly 11,000 Afghans every month. The EU also supports a nutrition response in view of the close to 3 million children under 5 years of age suffering from malnutrition in Afghanistan.
The EU also funds “education in emergencies”-projects for children who were forced out of school due to conflict or displacement. EU funding also supports humanitarian flights, the provision of security information to non-governmental organisations and the coordination of humanitarian interventions.
The EU has funded humanitarian operations in Afghanistan since 1994, providing over €975 million. Funds are allocated strictly based on the humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality to ensure access to those in need.