Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan 2009

14 January 2009

The 2009 Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan represents a major step towards a coherent and prioritised strategy to alleviate the pressing humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.  The Plan aims to meet the immediate needs and build the resilience of those made most vulnerable by natural disasters, lack of access to basic social services, increasing food insecurity caused by rising prices, the ongoing armed conflict and the worsening security situation.  In a country where poverty and low levels of development are widespread, the Plan acknowledges the need to define boundaries for humanitarian action and to target assistance to caseloads according to identified priorities.

Seven years after the Taliban regime was replaced by an internationally-supported Afghan government, Afghanistan’s transition to political, economic, and social stability still needs improvement and it is anticipated that this situation will persist during 2009.  Human rights concerns, the complexity of the state-building challenges, and the investment required to address these issues are becoming more apparent.  Insecurity has enormous consequences for the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, creating acute needs against an existing background of chronic vulnerability, and also constrains the capacity of humanitarian actors to respond.  This is particularly true in the Southern, Southeastern and Eastern regions.  The armed conflict is increasingly characterised by the use of suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, kidnappings and air strikes, all of which tend to increase civilian casualties.  The ability of anti-government elements to operate across borders and their income from the increased production of opium has reinforced their operational, logistical, and financial strength.  In many areas, it is difficult for the Afghan government to establish a continuous operational presence. 

Within the governance and development sphere, weak or no rule of law, corruption, and the complexity of the state-building process have become increasingly apparent.  Extreme poverty and lack of development have also left the population more susceptible during times of crisis and emergency, limiting their coping strategies and draining contingency reserves.  The global phenomenon of persistently high food prices, combined with recurrent drought, has compounded these humanitarian needs.  Even a recent easing of world food prices has had limited impact in Afghanistan, given the country’s landlocked status and food export restrictions by neighbouring countries, among other factors.  In this regard, large-scale activities related to food security and restoring drought-damaged agriculture, which started with the July 2008 appeal (see Section 2), must continue.  Nevertheless, the government is proceeding with international support to implement the Afghanistan National Development Strategy which is expected to effect significant improvement in livelihoods. 

Faced with so many challenges, humanitarian organisations in Afghanistan have recognised and acted upon the need to establish new humanitarian structures.  In 2007, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) established a Humanitarian Affairs Unit and a Humanitarian Country Team comprising the main humanitarian actors in the country; the cluster approach was adopted in April 2008, and by early August nine clusters were rolled out at the national level.  In July 2008, the Humanitarian Country Team decided that a 2009 Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan should be developed; in October the UN announced its decision to open an OCHA office by the end of the year.  These coordination developments promise to bring added value to humanitarian action. 

However, tangible benefits of these initiatives have been impeded by, among other factors, deterioration of access by humanitarian actors to the affected population, as a result of various types of insecurity.  In areas where insecurity prevents access, there has been an increased reliance on programme delivery and monitoring through local partner organisations.  Threats against foreign employees of international agencies and NGOs have been frequently made and sometimes carried out by anti-government elements and criminal actors, but by far the greatest risk is to national staff.  These threats have further shrunk the operating environment to the detriment of effective humanitarian presence and implementation of activities, and considerably increased the costs of humanitarian action. 

The objectives of the Humanitarian Action Plan are:

  1. To provide relief to conflict-affected and disaster-affected (principally drought-affected) groups and individuals, including reintegration or resettlement support for IDPs, returnees, deportees and host communities; 
  2. To monitor and advocate for the protection of civilians and for the respect of international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law;
  3. To mitigate food insecurity and treat malnutrition;
  4. To improve preparedness for disasters and disease outbreaks, and related response; 
  5. To improve overall humanitarian access and response, including through strengthened humanitarian coordination and capacity at national and regional levels. 

To achieve these objectives, the HAP presents a selected and prioritised set of 112project proposals from 39 NGOs and eight United Nations organisations for a total of US$[1] 603,981,153 for urgent consideration by the donor community.

This document, the first Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan in several years, is a milestone, providing a relatively early snapshot of the concerted efforts to address the country’s humanitarian needs.  In the coming weeks and months, the clusters, Humanitarian Country Team, and Government counterparts will deepen their analysis of the needs, and seek to match those needs with adequate capacity and coverage, bringing a higher proportion of humanitarian actors and their relevant projects into the HAP (as many humanitarian actors did not have opportunity or capacity to include their projects during the HAP’s compressed development schedule).  Projects will be added or revised as needed continually, on line.[2]

[1]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 CAP 2009 page.

[2]The Financial Tracking Service on Reliefweb ( will display full project details in their latest versions, as well as continual funding information provided by donors and recipient organisations. 

Document History

14 January 2009

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