Persistent insecurity and intensified conflict continue to cause large-scale suffering and displacement of people throughout Afghanistan and in the neighbouring region. The lack of protection for civilians highlights an urgent need to promote International Humanitarian Law across all parties to the conflict. Humanitarian needs are further compounded by the risk of natural disasters and the impact of climate change. The European Union’s main focus rests on providing live-saving aid through emergency medical care, protection services, and cash-based assistance.
Intense fighting persists between government forces supported by the international military forces and armed opposition groups. According to the United Nations, over 5 000 civilians were killed or injured in the first half of 2018, the highest ever recorded since the documentation of civilian casualties began in 2009. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that some 178 000 people have become newly displaced since January 2018. They urgently need basic services such as healthcare, water and shelter. At the national level, 9.3 million Afghans are food insecure.
The country is currently experiencing a severe drought that heavily affects two-thirds of its territory and at least 2.2 million people. The United Nations estimates that over 250 000 people are affected by natural disasters every year in Afghanistan.
Some 5.8 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002. Throughout 2017, approximately 650 000 Afghans returned to the country, often after many decades. The influx of the returnees has strained the capacity of existing services and caused concerns about their ability to re-integrate and establish decent living conditions. Meanwhile, a further 5 million Afghans (2.7 million without registration or legal status) are still live as refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.
Given the intensity of the conflict and the level of humanitarian needs, the European Union's key priority is to provide life-saving assistance. In 2018, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has allocated €46 million to ensure much-needed relief assistance to the most vulnerable conflict- and disaster-affected populations, including the victims of the severe drought which is currently affecting large swathes of the country. Interventions focus on emergency shelter, food assistance, medical care, cash-based assistance, and protection services. The EU also supports education in emergencies for children who were forced out of school due to conflict or displacement.
The EU funds the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM), which aims to ensure timely emergency assistance to people who have been recently displaced. Its core activity is to provide unconditional cash assistance to those most in need. Since the beginning of 2017, more than 450 000 people across the country have benefited from ERM assistance, which has helped them to overcome the first two months of displacement.
Furthermore, the EU supports life-saving health services for victims of the conflict, whilst also ensuring access to healthcare for people in areas where regular government provision is disrupted due to armed interventions. Health facilities continue to report record high admission levels of conflict-related trauma cases. The EU’s funding supports the delivery of emergency treatment and related psychological assistance to close to 5 000 Afghans each month.
In 2017 and 2018, €800 000 have been allocated to deliver education in emergencies to vulnerable children in the conflict-affected province of Kandahar, benefiting 9 000 students. The EU has funded humanitarian operations in Afghanistan since 1994, providing in excess of €794 million to date. Funds are allocated strictly on the basis of the humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality, and neutrality to ensure access to those in need.
In order to support the implementation of principled humanitarian interventions, the EU also facilitates humanitarian flights, the provision of security information to NGOs, and the coordination of humanitarian actions in the country.