Insecurity and conflict continue to affect people in Afghanistan. The lack of civilian protection outlines the need to promote International Humanitarian Law among all parties to the conflict. Attacks on healthcare and educational facilities are at a record high. The EU’s priority is to provide healthcare and protection services: food, emergency shelter and education to those affected by conflict, disasters and epidemics. EU humanitarian aid is provided in line with humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
Afghanistan saw a high number of civilian casualties between January and September 2020, according to the UN. Close to 6,000 civilians were killed or injured, despite the launch of official peace negotiations in September.
Violence continued throughout the year. In 2020, almost 378,000 people fled their homes due to conflict, raising the number of displaced people to over 4.8 million since 2012. Attacks on medical and educational facilities continue and are very frequent.
The pandemic, persistent political insecurities and increased violence have further deteriorated the humanitarian situation in the country. COVID-19 import restrictions and widespread unemployment have worsened food insecurity, with close to 17 million people— approximately 45% of Afghanistan’s population—at very critical levels.
Currently, 27 out of 34 provinces are within the emergency threshold for acute malnutrition, 10 of them are facing critical levels. One in two children under the age of 5 is severely malnourished. Meanwhile, close to 6.5 million Afghans still live as refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, many of them without registration or legal status. Afghanistan is also highly prone to intense and recurring natural hazards, such as floods, landslides, avalanches, droughts and earthquakes, affecting some 200,000 people every year.
Given the intensity of the conflict and the level of humanitarian needs, the EU’s priority is to provide life-saving assistance. In 2021, the EU has allocated €32 million in humanitarian support to ensure critical relief assistance to the most vulnerable, including the victims of war, forced displacement and natural hazards. Interventions will continue to focus on providing emergency healthcare, shelter, food assistance, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, education in emergencies, and various protection services targeting women and children.
A large portion of the recent funding is also dedicated to addressing the health emergency posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated the already dire needs in the country. The aid focuses on treating COVID-19 patients and preventing the spread of the virus through case investigation, the provision of medical equipment, training, awareness-raising activities and other critical programming. In 2020, the EU also organised and funded a humanitarian air bridge from Europe to Afghanistan, transporting 90 metric tons of COVID-19 relieve items to Afghanistan, to address the most urgent needs related to the pandemic.
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 180,000 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, while 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 provision of emergency treatment and related psychological assistance to nearly 11,000 Afghans every month. The EU also supports physical rehabilitation to those wounded from war and nutrition response, given the close to 3 million children under the age of 5 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 €1 billion, which includes over €100 million in 2020 and 2021 alone. Funds are allocated strictly based on the humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality to ensure access to those in need.