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Afghanistan: 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan - First Quarter Report (January - March 2017), updated 18 May

KEY FIGURES

Funding

US$ 550 million requested
US$ 92 million received

Beneficiaries assisted

5.7 million targeted
1.3 million reached

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Conflict displacement has continued into 2017 with 67,850 new IDPs in the first quarter. While this represents a 40 percent reduction on those displaced by fighting in the same period in 2016, a rising insurgency and increased insecurity are exacerbating existing humanitarian needs while simultaneously generating new ones. According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), only 57 percent of Afghanistan is now under government control or influence, an almost 15 percent decline since the end of 2015. Within that same timeframe the number of IDPs located in hard-to-reach areas has continued to grow, today constituting 23 percent (15,730) of the newly-displaced caseload in 2017. More than 50 percent of those displaced are reported to be children who face particular risk of abuse and exploitation as well as interrupted school attendance and harmful child labour, requiring targeted protective services in response. In addition to being left bereft of their assets and belongings, populations affected by conflict are also exposed to multiple forms of gender based violence, including early and forced marriage, domestic and psychological and sexual abuse, affecting displaced and host communities alike. 

In March, Non State Armed Groups (NSAGs) captured Sangin district in Hilmand province following a series of failed attempts, while strategically and politically important provincial capitals such as Lashkar Gah and Tirinkot remain under virtual siege. Consequently, new IDPs in the Southern region account for more than 40 percent (27,700) of the overall total so far in 2017. In keeping with previous years, the spring offensive – announced at the end of April – is expected to lead to increased clashes and displacement country-wide, although with the continuation of fighting over the winter period it is unclear whether this will result in a noticeable spike over the next quarter. 

During the first three months of the year, UNAMA documented 2,181 civilian casualties (715 deaths and 1,466 injuries), a 4 percent decrease on those occurring in the same period of 2016. Consistent with last year’s trends, however, ground engagements continued to cause most civilian casualties followed by improvised explosive devices and suicide and complex attacks. In addition to high numbers of civilian casualties, 2017 continues to bear witness to restricted access to health and education facilities, with 17 conflict-related incidents targeting health-care or health-care workers recorded within the reporting period. As part of ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilian populations, the government of Afghanistan has issued an order seeking to decrease the use of heavy weapons in residential areas, while the Ministry of Defense and National Directorate for Security have presented a number of measures aimed at reducing civilian casualties to the National Security Council for approval. Ensuring the operationalisation of these procedures will be a key focus of the work of the Senior Level Working Group on the Protection of Civilians during the second quarter and beyond. In their announcement of the Spring Offensive the Statement of the Islamic Emirate also noted intentions to minimise civilian casualties paying heed to the principles of necessity and proportionality.

On the political front, heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan came to a head in February following a spate of suicide attacks in Pakistan which resulted in intense mortar shelling and artillery fire into Nangarhar and Kunar provinces in the Eastern region, killing 5 civilians and displacing a further 11,225 people. This also led to the closure of Torkham and Spin Boldak borders for a month—the first time they had been sealed for an extended period since September 2001. This closure delayed the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies including medicines, cold chain equipment, education materials and food assistance to thousands of beneficiaries, and significantly slowed the number of undocumented returnees arriving from Pakistan. Between January and March, 17,970 undocumented returnees arrived from Pakistan, a considerable decrease on the numbers between July and December 2016, but still 20 percent more than those during the same period in 2016. One fifth of the population across Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces is now a returnee, approximately 500,000 people, adding to the pressure on existing services and resources in areas already hosting a large number of IDPs. During the reporting period, no registered refugees arrived in Afghanistan following the extension of the winter pause of UNHCR’s repatriation programme. 

In mid-March, the Displacement and Returns Executive Committee (DiREC) and National Cabinet endorsed a comprehensive Action Plan to accompany the Policy Framework on IDPs and Returnees adopted in January. The Executive Committee facilitates joint humanitarian and development planning and brings together Government, UN and Donor agency efforts focusing on six key response areas, including: the provision of immediate humanitarian assistance, documentation, access to basic services, land allocation and adequate housing. A costing exercise outlining the financial requirements of each goal is in the process of being finalised along with plans to replace Presidential Decree 104 with a draft Technical Procedure for the Provision of Land to Returnees and IDPs. 

While natural disasters have so far been relatively small-scale in 2017, the number of people affected in the first quarter (30,720) is already almost half that in the entire previous year. Particularly badly affected has been Herat and Nimroz provinces in the Western and Southern regions where more than 10,000 people were hit by flash flooding in February and March, and in Zabul province in the Central region where 4,000 people were affected by heavy snowfall. The devastating avalanches in Nuristan province in February that claimed 57 lives and impacted the lives of more than 700 people also reinforces the need for the humanitarian community to maintain a constant state of readiness for sudden onset crises. Preparedness efforts spearheaded by OCHA, UN agencies and international partners to ensure that sufficient humanitarian supplies and stocks were prepositioned in high-risk locations prior to the onset of the winter, ready for immediate deployment in the event of an emergency, have however mitigated the impact of these extreme weather events. Stocks prepositioned, included: 5,500MT of food assistance in 60 districts across eight provinces covering 188,000 people, pneumonia kits to 98 priority district hospitals in 24 provinces covering 144,000 cases, and a prepositioned stock of 20,000 NFI kits and over 3,100 emergency shelter kits. Efforts to improve the timeliness of assistance and potential reach of partners to populations affected by sudden onset emergencies through cash-based interventions are also underway: currently, 10 humanitarian partners delivering cash assistance have indicated their ability to scale up interventions in response to a crisis, although resources for these interventions will still need to be raised in the event that such a situation should materialise.

 

Webspace(s): 
Organization(s): 
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Original Publication Date: 
09 May 2017
Document type: 
Periodic Monitoring Report
Location(s): 
Afghanistan
Theme(s): 
Inter-Cluster Coordination
Coordination hub(s): 
National Level Coordination