Consolidated Appeal for Afghanistan 2012

15 December 2011

Description of the Context

Humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan have steadily deteriorated in recent years due to the protracted conflict and recurrent natural disaster—particularly drought, flash floods, and other extreme weather.  An intensified conflict in 2011 caused further civilian casualties and displacement, delayed humanitarian action and disrupted essential services.  The planned withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan over the next three years risks disrupting local economies and hindering humanitarian and development action. 

Resurgent conflict across the country and endemic environmental hazards render the majority of Afghanistan’s 30.4 million people[1] chronically or acutely vulnerable.  While coping mechanisms and some forms of assistance do exist, the seemingly endless cycle of human suffering continues unabated.   

Key humanitarian indicators have steadily deteriorated in Afghanistan in recent years as a result of protracted conflict, recurrent environmental hazards and a combination of under-development and development failure. 

The failure to closely link the work of humanitarian and development actors in Afghanistan has caused challenges associated with recurrent environmental hazards to persist.  Limited snow and rainfall during the past winter and spring caused a slow-onset drought, which affected the food security of people in 14 provinces in 2011.  The drought (which is the eighth in 11 years) reflects the critical importance of implementing not just short-term humanitarian relief, but also longer-term resilience-building measures.  It prompted the revision of the 2011 CAP on 2 October 2011 to include US$[2]142 million to ensure immediate assistance to affected people through September 2012. 

The United Nations (UN) has been present in Afghanistan some 40 years.  Today there are 28 UN agencies, funds and programmes operating in the country alongside the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.  It is estimated that more than 3,000 local organizations are engaged in various forms of development assistance; 190 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are registered with the Afghanistan NGO Coordinating Bureau.  A comprehensive review of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan mandate in Afghanistan is scheduled for late 2011. 


To help frame and shape 2012 priorities, the humanitarian community participated in six regional and one national Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) workshops, identifying the most likely, worst-case, and best-case scenarios for 2012.  In mapping trends for economic opportunity, conflict, environmental disasters, political and security events, and other contributing factors to humanitarian caseloads, the best-case scenario—conciliation and an end to on-going conflict—was viewed as unlikely in light of the assassination of former president Rabbani.  Equally, given the decade of effort to provide a government and governance to the people of Afghanistan, the worst-case scenario—collapse—was also viewed as unlikely in 2012.   

The most likely scenario—that of a continued escalation of violent conflict fuelled by the departure of foreign security forces in country and subsequent increased humanitarian need, coupled with nominal humanitarian access or assistance—follows downward trends seen in 2009, 2010, and 2011 CAP scenario analyses.  In addition, a projected decline in levels of external assistance such as foreign remittances, foreign bilateral and multilateral aid, and development funding, all of which impacts economic opportunity, offers a stark departure from previous analyses. 


Afghanistan’s political and security environment remains tenuous.  To facilitate peace talks between the Government and armed opposition groups, the UN Security Council removed ten Taliban leaders from its terrorist list in 2011.  Outreach efforts by the Government-supported High Peace Council have been undermined by the threat of or reality of violence in many parts of the country.  This culminated in the September 2011 assassination of former President Rabbani, Chairman of the High Peace Council, effectively halting the peace process. 

Throughout 2011, ISAF continued counter-insurgency and stabilization operations inside Afghanistan, seeking to contain armed opposition groups, particularly the Al-Qaida and Haqqani networks.  However, in mid-2011 the United States and several other troop-contributing nations announced they would begin a drawdown of ISAF, with a view to complete withdrawal by 2014.  The prevailing ISAF assessment is that current security conditions are conducive to Afghan forces assuming primacy in some areas.  This assessment continues to be challenged by a series of attacks on Government installations, assassinations, and high-profile attacks against prominent installations in the centre of Kabul.  Insurgent groups have continued to expand their presence and demonstrate their reach across the country and areas previously considered stable.  The increase in incidents has affected civilians, the UN, and NGOs community.

The transfer of security responsibilities from ISAF to Afghan forces began during the first quarter of 2011 with the handover of security primacy in seven locations.  As many as 17 provinces may be included in the as-yet-unannounced next tranche of transition. 

The anticipated socio-economic shock associated with the ISAF’s withdrawal makes the sustainability of Afghan public expenditure a source of concern.  With 71% of GDP currently funded by external assistance, Afghanistan has one of the highest dependency ratios in the world.  The country is expected to have little economic generation capacity by 2014, with the exception of uncertain mineral resources and an illegal narcotics trade.  It is expected to revert to low-income-country status in the coming years.  This is likely to cause considerable unrest and instability and deepen existing vulnerabilities.

Strategic Objectives 2011, 2012

The Strategic Objectives of the 2011 CAP:

  • To provide humanitarian aid and protection to populations affected by conflict and natural hazards.
  • To respond to humanitarian needs resulting from situations of chronic vulnerability.
  • To develop contingency planning on recognized hazards (with reference to Hyogo Framework Priority 5)

The strategic objectives of the 2012 CAP:

  1. Planning for and responding to the humanitarian aid and protection needs arising from armed conflict, particularly that of the displaced; those without access to basic assistance (including those delivered by the Government); and populations where there is no humanitarian access (with other assistance or support, including from Government).
  2. Protection and initial return assistance to IDPs and refugee returnees.
  3. Preparing  for and responding  to the protection and humanitarian needs arising from annual and seasonal natural ‘disasters’ and advocacy for progress on implementation of Hyogo Framework Priorities 1-4. 
  4. Advocating protection support and appropriate development interventions to acutely vulnerable populations targeted by the Millennium Development Goals, whether in rural or urban areas. 

Of the nine CAPs or similar humanitarian plans for Afghanistan over the past ten years, the focus of the humanitarian community has been at various turns diluted to include issues related to development and chronic vulnerability.  As such, the 2012 CAP represents a shift from previous years and a “back to basics” approach, excluding the provision of humanitarian aid to chronically vulnerable populations in favour of advocacy for development, as demonstrated by the inclusion of progress towards Millennium Development Goals, and the responsibility of the Government of Afghanistan. 

The Humanitarian Country Team determined that the CAP must further improve targeting of humanitarian action to prioritize life-saving assistance whilst helping to target gaps in development assistance that contribute to humanitarian caseloads.  For this, the 2012 CAP seeks to further define assistance required within the humanitarian lens, including emphasis on needs arising from conflict and initial assistance for the internally displaced and refugee returnees. 

Needs Summary

Years of active conflict have rendered Afghan governance structures fragile, particularly at the provincial and district level.  The Government continues to struggle to deliver basic public services, implement the rule of law and guarantee internal security.  Alleged fraud and widespread corruption in the past year have undermined international confidence in the Government and led to the International Monetary Fund’s suspension of Afghanistan’s accreditation, pending the outcome of an internationally supervised audit.  This suspension halted funding from a number of critical donors to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which is the main vehicle for the payment of public servants and the main source of funding for reconstruction and development projects. 

This, in addition to insecurity and chronic lack of development and accountability, contributed to access to basic services such as medical assistance and education being well below internationally accepted levels.  For example, the government offers health facilities in many parts of the country, though at woefully inadequate levels of presence and coverage.  Infant mortality rate is estimated at 191 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality ratio at 1,600 per 100,000 live births, second-highest in the world.  National estimates of populations without access to basic services sit at 5.4 million,[3] including 4.4 million females.  According to the Health Cluster, there is one health worker per 7,000 Afghans, and—perhaps more striking—one female health worker per 23,000 Afghan females.  Moreover, the dispersal of these professionals is largely in the centre and north of the country, leaving large swaths of the country uncovered. 

Similarly, the number of teachers in schools remains well below international standards, with one teacher per 101 students in country, and one female teacher for every 344 female students.  The coverage of these educators is as unequal as that in healthcare.  Meanwhile, because of the inadequate number of formal schools and qualified teachers (especially female teachers) and of inappropriate learning spaces and facilities, an estimated 4.2 million are out of school, 60% of them girls; while 50% of the 12,421 schools lack buildings.[4]  Please see: Access to Basic Services - Number of Professional Health Workers (excluding Doctors) and Access to Basic Services - Primary School Teachers for further information. 

The humanitarian community, composed of UN agencies, programmes, and funds, international NGOs, and indigenous entities, pays primary focus to the conflict-affected, the internally displaced, refugee populations, and those affected by natural disaster. 

Humanitarian Access

Regular and sustained access for humanitarian agencies remains a challenge, because of inhospitable terrain, limited infrastructure, surging insecurity, limitations on capacity, and funding constraints.  While presence, capacity, and coverage is largely an independent process affected by longevity and acceptance, security, terrain, and logistics, the humanitarian community is unable to effectively cover many conflict and disaster-prone areas of the country.  (Please see Humanitarian Presence for further information.)  However, in locations where UN entities, international NGOs, and indigenous agencies operate, some level of access remains possible. 

Access varies, with some agencies having garnered more ‘acceptance’ by the community whilst others are viewed with greater suspicion as perceived parties of the conflict.  The Afghan Red Crescent Society, for example, is able to access, assess, and deliver in many parts of the country where others are unable.  Many humanitarian donor representatives, on the other hand, have far less ability to manoeuver due to their own security restrictions or their participation in ISAF with military capabilities.  (Please see: Population targeted in all the security incidentsfor further information.)

Given the multitude of constraints, humanitarian and development needs assessments are completed to the best of the ability of aid actors, as and when possible.  Notable is the completion of the first Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment and Early Recovery Assessment in 2011 covering 14 drought-affected provinces.  This seminal assessment, even with its inherent limitations, offers an insight to the capacity and reach of aid providers.  (Please see: Food Security and Agriculture Cluster - Planned Response for further information.)  However, access in areas in the central, east, south-east, south, and south-west of the country—some 50% of the territory—remains severely limited.  Bridging this gap is a priority for the humanitarian community in 2012.

Humanitarian Finance

The humanitarian community requested $678 million in support of the 2011 strategic objectives for Afghanistan noted above.  At the Mid-Year Review (MYR), this appeal was revised down to $454 million and funded to 63%, or $287 million for 144 projects.  Primary donors included Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), France, Japan, the United States Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Agency for International Development (USAID), Norway, and SDC.   

On 2 October, the humanitarian community revised the appeal in response to a slow-onset drought to $582 million for 168 projects.  This appeal will remain relevant through September 2012, when crops are harvested in the areas affected.

The 2012 CAP seeks donor support for $437,140,634 for 146 projects across eight clusters and one sub-cluster working group.

The CAP is de facto not an exclusive means for humanitarian planning and resource allocation in Afghanistan.  An estimated minimum of $398 million reaches the humanitarian community for actions not planned in the CAP, and further funds are channeled through ISAF counter-insurgency strategies, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and bilateral and multilateral funding by member states.  The humanitarian community is working to bring greater transparency to humanitarian financing in Afghanistan in 2012.   

[1]2011 estimated population of Afghanistan, including those outside the territorial borders of Afghanistan.  Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Office (CSO). 

[2]All dollar signs in this document denote United States dollars. Funding for this appeal should be reported to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS,, which will display its requirements and funding on the current appeals page.

[3] Based on the health proxy and calculated based on gender separation.

[4] Please see: Access to Basic Services - Number of Professional Health Workers (excluding Doctors) and Access to Basic Services - Primary School Teachers for further information.

Document History

15 December 2011

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