What's happening in Afghanistan?
It’s been more than 18 months since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and we stayed to deliver for children. Yet in that time, children’s lives have gotten worse.
Year of conflict have taken their toll on a generation of kids, and ongoing drought, food insecurity, economic shock and disease outbreaks is putting the squeeze on families.
Right now, more than 15 million Afghan children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Essential services are on the brink of collapse and children need clean water, therapeutic food, vaccines and healthcare to survive.
Children are living in conditions we can barely imagine, so when your donation brings them clean water or life-saving medicines - it means so much to kids who have so little.
UNICEF has been in Afghanistan since 1949. We'll stay and deliver for kids as long as they need us, but we need your help.
A donation from you today can and will make a difference. Please give today to support children and families in desperate need.
How UNICEF donors have been helping?
It's only thanks to donations from generous supporters that our work in Afghanistan can continue. The humanitarian needs of children are diverse - here is a snapshot of what's been achieved in 2022.
We vaccinated more than 6.6 million children against deadly measles.
We helped more than 18.5m people access primary healthcare through UNICEF-supported facilities.
We treated 662,870 children for malnutrition.
We provided 6.5 million people with access to clean water.
We supported over 5 million children to continue their education.
10-month-old Sana is suffering from severe wasting. She is receiving treatment at the UNICEF-supported clinic in Khawja Omari District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
Please donate now to support children in Afghanistan.
The crisis in Afghanistan may have fallen out of the headlines, but we can’t turn our backs on the children of Afghanistan. Not now, in their time of most need.
Right now, 28 million people, or 65% of the population of Afghanistan, need humanitarian aid. UNICEF has been in Afghanistan for over 70 years - and despite the challenging working environment, we will continue to be there in the weeks, months and years to come.
Children in Afghanistan are counting on us, can we count on you?
By donating today, you’ll be helping provide urgently needed humanitarian supplies and services to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable children in Afghanistan.
Your support is crucial in helping more than 15 million Afghan children waking up each day in a struggle for survival.
Please donate now, your support really will make a difference for children in Afghanistan.
In the unlikely event that the funds raised exceed UNICEF’s funding requirements for this appeal, your one off or monthly gift will go to our Greatest Need.
Your life-saving monthly donations will support this appeal for 6 months. After that they will go into our Global Parent fund to save and protect children worldwide.
UPDATED: 21st March, 2023
Since the Taliban seized power in 2021, the situation for children in Afghanistan has gotten worse. Children need us now more than ever before.
A donation from you today will help our humanitarian efforts for children and families across a range of areas.
Our work in Afghanistan
In September 2022 alone;
UNICEF supported a total of 388,891 children (60% per cent girls) through existing and new Community Based education facilities.
1,297,172 people gained access to safe water supply with support from UNICEF in drought affected areas.
171 Mobile Health Nutrition Teams (MHNT) continued to provide services in the remote hard to reach mountainous areas and previously inaccessible areas. Through these MHNTs, over 87,000 children were provided with out-patient care.
more than 37,061 children under-five were vaccinated against Measles.
290,708 caregivers were provided with counselling services and a total of 22,606 children aged 6-59 months were provided with Vitamin A supplements.
UNICEF screened more than 1.2 million children for severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
Where is UNICEF present?
We have a presence in every region of Afghanistan, including 11 offices operating across the country. Combined with our staff, volunteers and network of partners on the ground, these offices enable us to reach children in need, wherever they are.
If the fighting becomes too intense and our teams are in danger, we may temporarily relocate them - but that doesn’t stop us delivering critical support to children and families.
Supporting community based education in Afghanistan
Published on Thu Nov 17 2022
Education is a basic human right. In Afghanistan, and 146 other countries around the world, UNICEF works to provide quality learning opportunities that prepare children, especially girls, with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive.
In Bamyan Province, Afghanistan, UNICEF supports 67 community-based education classes. These classes provide education for 1,179 children.
UNICEF visited two of the 15 UNICEF-supported community-based classes in Bamyan's Yakawlang District. These classes provide education for 252 children, including 158 girls. There are 164 teachers managing the community-based classes in Bamyan, with over 50% of them female.
On 22 June 2022, girls bend over their textbooks in their community-based education class in Joshanak Village, Yawkawlang District, Bamyan Province Afghanistan.
In Yakawlang, there are 36 teachers, including 18 women. Within these classes, UNICEF supports the selection and training of teachers, including payment of their salaries, and provides teaching and learning materials for the classes, like notebooks, backpacks and pens for the children, and instructional materials for the teacher and classroom activities.
On 19 October 2022, 13-year-old Husna writes on the blackboard in her Grade 6 classroom at Mastoora High School in Laghman Province, Afghanistan.
For World Children's Day 2022, UNICEF traveled to all 34 of Afghanistan's provinces to ask children how they feel about girls being banned from secondary school.
"Girls have the right to get education. Everyone can go to school," says Husna.
"Not only men are capable of developing our country; thus, women must also pursue careers as teachers, doctors, and engineers to contribute to its advancement.”
Help us continue to support Husna, and every girl (and boy) in Afghanistan to continue their education. Please donate now.
Afghanistan diaries: Supporting health, learning and hope
Published on Fri Jun 03 2022
Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director for Global Communication and Advocacy, reflects on a recent visit to Afghanistan.
16 April 2022
On Saturday morning, the team briefs me. Just weeks ago, the longest road mission of any UN security unit in the past 20 years was carried out by UNICEF.
A UNICEF security specialist in Kabul, along with one of our local security officers, describe the months-long effort. Their 14-person team covered over 2,000 kilometres – from Kandahar, through Urozgan, Helmand and Nimroz, close to the border with Iran. Two thousand kilometres of villages, they tell me, now accessible to UNICEF staff who have stayed in the country to deliver nutrition, education and other essential services for Afghanistan’s children.
As our car rocks across the Tera Pass, the route carrying us south from Kabul, mountains stretch for the sky in every direction. This land once offered passage to travellers the world over, for thousands of years. Today it tells a different story.
On the outskirts of Kabul, we pass children in the streets. A young girl, seeking money for her family. A boy working at one of the market stalls that line the road. It’s two weeks into the holy month of Ramadan, and tables pile high with fruits and vegetables. But there are no crowds here.
The economic crisis in Afghanistan has had a devastating impact on everyday life. When, in 2021, the majority of foreign aid was frozen, critical services collapsed and incomes disappeared. Some 24 million people – more than half of them children – are now in need of humanitarian assistance as families slip below the poverty line. In Kabul and elsewhere, markets abound with goods that few Afghans can afford.
The empty stalls are a stark contrast from the place we’re headed. It’s a three-hour drive to Paktya Regional Hospital, in Gardez, where dozens of families fill the waiting room.
This is one of more than 2,300 health facilities across the country that UNICEF, together with WHO, is supporting. The hospital serves over 75,000 people throughout Paktya Province. As fighting in recent months has let up, more Afghans are able to seek out health care – a blessing for children and their parents. But the jump in demand is straining the health sector. To help prevent the system from collapsing, UNICEF and WHO are providing the supplies, salaries and training needed to keep services running.
No sooner than we arrive, I’m guided into a treatment ward for children with severe acute malnutrition. Six-month-old Rana is one of the infants who have been brought in for screening.
Rana’s mother, Sayera, says her daughter refuses to breastfeed. The youngest of five children, Rana has no appetite and has lost too much weight over the past few weeks. A nurse measures the infant’s arm circumference and confirms what Sayera already fears: Her child is severely malnourished and needs immediate treatment.
Sayera tells me her family eats bread and tea for breakfast, and rice and potatoes for lunch and dinner – the only staples they can afford. Hers is part of the 90 per cent of households in Afghanistan without enough to eat. This year alone, some 3.2 million children are projected to suffer from severe malnutrition across the country.
As we make our way to another part of the ward, Dr. Niamatullah Zaheer, the hospital director, tells me his staff are overwhelmed. The hospital’s only paediatrician regularly screens more than 100 children a day. Even the neonatal unit is stretched: Too often, the hospital is forced to accommodate more than one infant per bed.
We reach an area of the hospital reserved for children with severe acute malnutrition, kept under close observation until they’re well enough to return home.
It’s here that Basmina catches my eye – a little girl (she’s four years old, I learn) sitting straight up in her bed, at the corner of the room. I approach to say hello; she offers me a smile.
This isn’t Basmina’s first stay in the ward. Her 13-year-old sister, Jamillah, accompanies her each time. The girls lost their mother, and their father lost his job. After a few weeks of treatment at the hospital, Basmina becomes just healthy enough to return home. But the family has little access to food and clean water. Basmina’s health deteriorates once more before Jamillah can bring her back to the hospital, again and again.
As I listen to the sisters’ story – a story the nurses witness every day – Dr. Zaheer asks me to convey one message upon my return home: What is being done for these children would not have been possible without the support of the international community.
But needs are rising.
Girls in Afghanistan must go back to school
Published on Thu Apr 14 2022
UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, talks to girls attending classes at a UNICEF-supported community-based school in Kandahar’s Dand district.
Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell
“Millions of secondary-school girls around Afghanistan woke up hopeful today that they will be able to go back to school and resume their learning. It did not take long for their hopes to be shattered.
“The de facto authorities’ decision to delay the return to school for girls from Grade 7 to Grade 12 is a major setback for girls and their futures.
“With this decision, an entire generation of adolescent girls is being denied their right to an education and being robbed of the opportunity to gain the skills they need to build their futures.
“I urge the de facto authorities to honour their commitment to girls’ education without any further delays. I appeal to community leaders in every corner of Afghanistan to support the education of adolescent girls.
“All children deserve to be in school. This is the surest way to put the country on a surer path toward the peace and prosperity that the people of Afghanistan deserve.”
A Field Diary: Why I'm here in Afganistan
Published on Wed Feb 02 2022
Samantha Mort, UNICEF Afghanistan Chief of Communication.
Sunday, November 28.
It’s a chilly start as I set off for Bamyan in the central Highlands of Afghanistan. Twenty years ago, this picturesque valley caught the world’s attention when the ‘Buddhas of Bamyan’ were destroyed. Today, all that’s left of the two 6th-century statues, Salsal and Shahmama, is their imprint, carved deep into the sandstone cliff.
As Afghanistan spirals deeper into humanitarian crisis, I’m here to better understand how malnutrition is affecting rural communities.
From the inside of the car, the blue skies and sun remind us why Bamiyan Province translates to the ‘place of the shining light.’ But when we stop to pick up apples from a roadside merchant, the icy wind reminds us of the brutal winter ahead.Danyal, 8 months, with his mother at Bamyan provincial hospital.
Frozen waterfalls and snow-covered peaks flank us as we wind our way through the impressive Koh-i-Baba mountains.
Gazing at the arid soil, I wonder how anyone makes a living on these lands. And, yet, they do. Afghans are hardy, resourceful. On the rooftops of most houses we pass, there are already piles of sticks, dry bushes and dried animal manure fashioned into bricks for burning throughout winter. It smells and it’s not efficient but if you have no other way to keep your family warm, it works.
But Afghans need more than fuel this winter. With half the country – 23 million people – unable to afford a nutritious diet and with rising food prices, malnutrition rates are climbing by the day -- with devastating consequences.Children are being provided with lifesaving treatment and health services at the UNICEF-supported children’s ward in Bamyan provincial hospital where services and treatment are provided free of charge.
UNICEF has warned that, without urgent action, 1 million children under 5 are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. That means, they could die.
At Bamyan Provincial Hospital, the director takes me to the ward where children with complicated cases of severe acute malnutrition are being treated. On average, he’s seen cases rise by around 30% in recent months but, he cautions, this is just the start of winter; these figures will rise.
In the first bed, at just 60 days old, is tiny Hamid. Already fighting severe acute malnutrition and sepsis, he stares ahead, too weak to be interested in my wiggly fingers or silly faces. It seems as if all his energy is channeled into rapid, shallow breaths. His exhausted mother, Fatima, sits by his bedside willing him to fight for life.UNICEF vehicles delivering aid in rural Afghanistan
Malnourished herself and unable to produce enough breastmilk for her infant, she is grateful for the support from the hospital but also tells me she cannot stay here for two weeks while he recovers. She has three other children who have colds, are hungry and need her at home. Her husband, like so many in Afghanistan, used to be a day labourer – a man who would do odd jobs, from construction to farming, on an informal basis for a cash-in-hand at the end of the day. In recent months, though, this work has dried up. Now, he tries to sell vegetables on a mobile cart in Bamyan but his income is unpredictable. Sometimes, he makes $1 or $2 per day. So, the family of five live on bread, rice and potatoes day in, day out. There’s no money for eggs or lentils or meat or fruit or fuel. She looks at me, resigned and hopeless.2-months-old Hamid has been diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and will have to stay for at least two weeks at the Bamyan provincial hospital for treatment.
Unusually in a ward for such severe cases of malnutrition, there’s a wee shriek. Someone is trying to get my attention. In the next bed, Danyal, 8 months old, is the most alert of the children in the cots. For nine days now, Danyal has been treated for severe acute malnutrition and acute watery diarrhoea – and he is making a good recovery. His mother tells me that her family moved province to province out of fear and often without food. During the upheaval and anxiety, her breastmilk dried up. Her husband used to work for a Chinese contractor but that work ended for him after August. Now, he occasionally helps her father-in-law as a mechanic but he doesn’t bring in enough money to feed his family. UNICEF’s Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), the fortified peanut paste to treat malnourished children, has been a large part of Danyal’s recovery. His mother beams with gratitude and relief and tells me it has been transformative. She asks to take more home with her. Today, Danyal is fun; he is bright and curious. He doesn’t understand my facemask and tugs at it playfully. This is why I love my job – seeing how UNICEF contributes to nursing children back to health, back to childhood. I hope that the other mothers in the ward cradling their fragile babies, frantic with worry, take heart from Danyal’s recovery.
As I continue meeting mothers around the hospital, every single one tells me the same story: in the last few months, her husband has lost his job; the family has been plunged into poverty; they have no savings; it’s winter and their children are getting sicker. Most upsetting is this: they have no hope that things will improve. They are despairing. How I wish the global community would rally to prevent this crisis rather than treat it.
That is why we need governments and financial institutions to step up and support the people of Afghanistan now, in their hour of need – for children like Hamid who are fighting for life, and for children like Danyal who, thanks to the right healthcare at the right time, is fighting back for a chance at childhood.At the UNICEF-supported Bab-e-Bargh Comprehensive Health Center in Herat city, UNICEF’s chief of communication, Sam Mort, interact with Parwana, 4, who has been diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), the most extreme form of malnutrition.
05.45. I open the window; the fresh, icy chill catches my breath. Beyond the rooftops in the UN compound, Kabul’s mountains are beginning to glow in the morning sun. Winter is here -- bad news for the people of Afghanistan who find themselves in a fast-unraveling humanitarian disaster.
Today, I’m flying from Kabul to Herat in the west of the country where I plan to meet up with our UNICEF team and visit health clinics to better understand the challenges the medical staff are facing as the malnutrition crisis deepens. Afghanistan has long been one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. Now, the majority of that aid is frozen. That means critical services for children, such as health and education, are collapsing. Teachers haven’t been paid since August; some health workers in some provinces are beginning to receive payments after months. Desperate families are marrying their daughters off and exchanging their babies in return for a dowry. People are suffering.4-year-old Parwana, who suffers from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), is being fed by her mother, Malika, with UNICEF-provided Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF) – a nutrient rich food that is specifically designed to treat SAM.
At the airport in Kabul, I head to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service desk to check in for my flight. The aircraft, a Beechcraft 190, is tiny, cold and loud but it’s our best chance of getting around the country.
I haven’t been to Herat since the Taliban takeover on August 15. White Taliban flags line the roadside, fluttering in the biting wind. Merchants are out selling seasonal fruit – Herat has some of the best in the country. Pomegranate pyramids balance precariously, shuddering when trucks rumble by. Primary school children skip back from school, boys and girls, many with UNICEF’s distinctive cyan blue backpacks – they always make me smile. But it’s not just primary school children. It’s secondary school girls! My heart leaps seeing them. Since the Taliban took over, girls in grade 7-12 have not been allowed to return to classes. But here in Herat, four days ago, they opened. The fragility of this win is underlined for me when we get the news, less than a week later, that they have shut again.
The drive from the airport is one of the prettiest in Afghanistan. Imposing pine trees line the road. Boys doing wheelies on bikes zigzag between cars. Girls pour out of their shift at high school, chatting and laughing. Colourful flowers, defying the odds, cheer the dusty roadside.
At the local health center I’m greeted by the head of the clinic who assures me that not only does she feel safe to be at work, she drives herself back and forth. Since the Taliban took power, none of the clinic’s female staff have reported any difficulties coming to work. Of the 20 medical staff at the clinic, 80% are female. And although they have received no salary for August or September, they still go to work every day.
The head of the clinic shows me her records documenting malnutrition. In the last month, she has noted a 50% increase in cases of severe acute malnutrition.4-year-old Parwana (right) at home with her mother and brother in Shahrak-Sabz IDP settlement in Herat city.
In recent months, many people have lost their jobs and been plunged into poverty; food stocks are running low; food prices have risen; a drought has meant meagre harvests on which people rely to get through winter. Many women used to be the main breadwinners in their homes before the Taliban directed most women (except health workers) to remain at home. This has hit households hard. Half the country – 23 million people – can neither afford nor find nutritious food. Disaster is imminent.
The doctor tells me about one mother who brought in an undernourished baby that day. The mother couldn’t breastfeed and was subsisting on a diet of bread dipped in black tea once a day. No wonder she can’t produce milk; she’s starving. This underlines the urgent need to scale up direct cash transfer programmes so that families can buy the food they desperately need.
Cases of severe acute malnutrition are lingering, the doctor tells me, because when mothers receive a specific number of sachets of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) meant for one child, they often share the sachets with their other children because they don’t have enough to feed them.
Herat, November 11.
Outside, it’s 1C. I shiver, and think of all the families waking in Herat, and all over Afghanistan, this morning, also cold, but without a hot shower and a hot breakfast to which to look forward. I think of the parents who look at each other and ask, “What will we feed our children today?”
We drive to a health clinic to better understand both the needs of health workers who have not been paid for months and the extent of the malnutrition crisis. We meet Malika, a mother of three children under 6 years old. Her husband sells chickens when he can. Some days, though, he sells none.
When she brought her 4-year-old daughter, Parwana, into the clinic, Malika placed her daughter on a chair. She didn’t move. Rather, she sat in a slumped and crumpled shape, as if her coat was the only thing supporting her tiny frame. She didn’t raise her head; she wasn’t curious about the strangers in the room. She had a haunted expression on her face. Her cheeks were hollowed out; her skin dry, wrinkled and paper thin. Her hair was patchy and bald in places. All the time, the nutrition counsellor spoke to her mother, Parwana stared at the same spot.
Malika told us Parwana won’t eat anything she prepares; she winces in pain if she eats bread and cries. The nutrition counsellor quickly does a raft of tests, including measuring Parwana’s upper arm which looks no thicker than a broom handle. At 4 years old, Parwana weighs 9.10kgs. She should be double that. Immediately, her mother is given a prescription for RUTF, the high energy peanut paste which promotes growth. UNICEF is the sole supplier of RUTF in Afghanistan. We currently have supplies in our warehouses but at the rate we’re getting through it, we will soon need more.
At the pharmacy, Malika collects 28 sachets of RUTF and right then and there, sits down, tears open a packet and urges her frail daughter to eat. Parwana gently takes a bite. But as she swallows, she winces in pain. Her stomach is tender. It doesn’t stop her taking another bite and another. She seems to be enjoying it and, eventually, glances up at me. We sit together as she eats slowly and steadily. 15 minutes later, she sighs and needs a rest.
For her weight and height, Parwana will need 4 of these sachets each day for a week. Then she will return to the clinic for tests and more supplies of RUTF. This cycle will continue until she is out of danger. She is, of course, one of the lucky ones. UNICEF has warned, for many months now, that, without urgent action, 1.1 million children under the age of 5 could be at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition. This is why we need the global community to rally and support the children of Afghanistan. This is the make or break moment.
As I left, I told Parwana that the next time I see her, she will be a strong and healthy girl. I waved goodbye to her and she mustered all her strength to gently lift her hand and wiggle her tiny fingers goodbye. The tenderness and fragility of the gesture brought tears to my eyes. A shy smile spreads across her face.
When people ask me why I’m here in Afghanistan, I tell them, it’s for moments like those and for smiles like that.
Child marriage on the rise in Afghanistan
Published on Tue Nov 16 2021
"I am deeply concerned by reports that child marriage in Afghanistan is on the rise." - UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
UNICEF has received credible reports of families offering daughters as young as 20 days old up for future marriage in return for a dowry.
Even before the latest political instability, UNICEF’s partners registered 183 child marriages and 10 cases of selling of children over 2018 and 2019 in Herat and Baghdis provinces alone. The children were between 6 months and 17 years of age.
UNICEF estimates that 28% of Afghan women aged 15–49 years were married before the age of 18.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing food crisis and the onset of winter have further exacerbated the situation for families." says Ms Fore
In 2020, almost half of Afghanistan’s population was so poor that they lacked necessities such as basic nutrition or clean water.
The extremely dire economic situation in Afghanistan is pushing more families deeper into poverty and forcing them to make desperate choices, such as putting children to work and marrying girls off at a young age.
As most teenage girls are still not allowed to go back to school, the risk of child marriage is now even higher. Education is often the best protection against negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage and child labour.
UNICEF is working with partners to raise communities’ awareness of the risks for girls if they are married early. Child marriage can lead to a lifetime of suffering. Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence, discrimination, abuse and poor mental health. They are also more vulnerable to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
“We have started a cash assistance programme to help offset the risk of hunger, child labour and child marriage among the most vulnerable families. We plan to scale up this and other social services programmes in the months to come." says Ms Fore.
UNICEF will also work with religious leaders to ensure that they are not involved in the “Nekah” (the marriage contract) for young girls.
But this is not enough.
UNICEF is calling on central, provincial and local authorities to take concrete measures to support and safeguard the most vulnerable families and girls. We urge the de facto authorities to prioritize the reopening of schools for all secondary school girls and allow all-female teachers to resume their jobs without any further delays.
“The future of an entire generation is at stake.”
First aircraft carrying UNICEF lifesaving medical supplies arrives in Kabul
Published on Fri Oct 01 2021
On 29 September 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan, the first aircraft carrying UNICEF lifesaving medical supplies arrived through the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) Airbridge.
32 metric tonnes containing essential drugs, oral rehydration salts and antibiotics, medical and surgical supplies were flown in, covering the urgent needs of 100,000 children and women for the next three months.
The supplies touch down as health facilities across Afghanistan face serious shortages of supplies and medications.
“These medical supplies come at a critical time for children and mothers in Afghanistan as they face an escalating health and nutrition crisis,” said Herve Ludovic De Lys, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “We thank the EU for their support to ensure children and mothers can receive the basic health services they require.”
This is the first of two consignments planned to be flown into Kabul via the ECHO Airbridge. The next one is due early October.
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