Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan 2013
In 2013, Afghanistan will continue on the path of security transition from international forces to Afghan forces. More than 75% of the country will be under national security control by mid-year. However, it is unlikely that this security transition, and the eventual withdrawal of international military forces by the end of 2014, will be matched by a transition from conflict to stability. The worsening conflict trends over the last five years indicate that civilians will continue to suffer because of armed violence and that the humanitarian situation will deteriorate.
Insecurity remains the biggest determinant of humanitarian need. Armed conflict prevails in large parts of the country. It causes significant physical and psychological harm to civilians, as well as displacement and deprivation of basic services. Reinforcing the protection of civilians is therefore the predominant objective of the humanitarian community in 2013, and all sectors have plans in place to advance this goal.
Natural hazards and disasters are endemic in Afghanistan and affect 250,000 people every year. Chronically impoverished and conflict-ridden communities are so vulnerable that even small-scale natural hazards can have a devastating effect on people’s lives. Building resilience at the community level is therefore critical for 2013 and will cut across all sectors of humanitarian response.
Despite significant development gains over the last decade, Afghanistan scores low across a range of humanitarian indicators. The country is consistently at the bottom of development and humanitarian ranking lists of UNDP, ECHO and OCHA. Thirty-four years of conflict and recurrent natural hazards have left the population in a state of deep vulnerability, and many people’s coping mechanisms are exhausted. In addition to an internally displaced population of 450,000 people, Afghanistan also has the largest population of refugee returnees in the world—5.7 million people, with many more to come from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.
The ability of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people to access life-saving assistance—from the conflict-affected south and east to the disaster-prone north—is inhibited by numerous factors. Humanitarian presence in conflict areas remains limited, as many organizations refrain from assessing needs and delivering aid in a largely adverse environment. Negotiating access is becoming increasingly difficult because of radicalization, fragmentation and foreign influence on armed opposition groups. Physical access constraints are also significant, especially during winter when heavy snowfallcuts off many rural areas from district centres.
Over the last decade the humanitarian sector has been fairly well funded, largely as a by-product of unprecedented international development assistance flowing into the country. However, this is rapidly ending with international military withdrawal, a globally tougher funding climate and donor fatigue with Afghanistan.
Faced with these challenging circumstances, the humanitarian community is focusing on the greatest needs and on better assisting and protecting the most vulnerable people. The 2013 CHAP will provide humanitarian actors and donors with a better analytical basis for prioritizing interventions and funding. It features a ranking of provinces according to need. The ranking reflects the best-available information while acknowledging gaps in data. The top five provinces are Kandahar, Ghazni, Hilmand, Khost and Kunar, reflecting the high prevalence of conflict-induced needs in the south and south-eastern regions.
- Intensifying conflict ahead of full international military withdrawal inflicts a growing toll on civilians. The number of civilian casualties and displaced people is increasing, and the conflict is spreading to most provinces of the country. Protecting civilians must therefore be at the forefront of all humanitarian efforts in 2013.
- Large gaps remain in the provision of basic public services, demanding a humanitarian response across a range of sectors. Poor governance, non-functional public facilities and chronic shortage of qualified staff leave many Afghans without primary health services, basic education, water & sanitation and adequate housing.
- Despite significant international development assistance provided over the last decade, the humanitarian situation is worsening. Humanitarian indicators are critically low in Afghanistan, where over one third of the population is food-insecure, 165 children die every day and a pregnant woman dies every two hours.
- Mustering an adequate response to returning refugees is critical. Over the last decade, Afghanistan has seen the return of 5.7 million people. This trend is certain to continue, with the possible addition of unplanned, large-scale return. This could destabilize the country further unless it is properly managed and resourced.
- The ability of national authorities to respond to natural hazards should be respected and enhanced. Well-defined criteria are required to guide interventions, not least with regard to small-scale hazards that are adequately managed by national and provincial authorities.
- Humanitarian space is shrinking with more pervasive conflict. This requires a redoubling of efforts by the humanitarian community to work in a principled, needs-based fashion to gain access. The privileged humanitarian access enjoyed by national NGOs should be more fully exploited through adequate funding and capacity development.
- International military withdrawal is an opportunity to regain humanitarian space. Donors are encouraged to delink humanitarian funding from military and political objectives. In particular, humanitarian action must be distinct from projects and activities previously carried out by Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
- Humanitarian air transport services must be bolstered to enable emergency response. Security conditions are deteriorating and ground infrastructure is largely non-existent in remote areas. Air transport is an essential enabler of rapid emergency response, and critical funding gaps must be filled.