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Snapshot 10–16 September

Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea: Transmission remains high, and numbers of reported cases doubled between the last week of August and the first of September in Liberia; in Sierra Leone 150 cases were reported for each of the last two weeks. Fewer cases have been reported in Guinea – 49 between 5 and 7 September. Currently, the secondary impact of the epidemic will potentially leave 500,000 in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone, while WFP has targeted 449,000 people for food assistance in Liberia.

Pakistan: Monsoon rains have affected almost 2.5 million people in Azad Kashmir, Punjab, and Gilgit Baltistan. 140,330 evacuations had been made. In Sialkot, Punjab, waterborne diseases have been recorded in Bajwat, Head Marala, Chaprar, and Pasrur (DAWN, 11/09/2014). The flood waters are now moving towards Sindh province, with warnings for Guddu and Sukkur.

Updated: 16/09/2014. Next update: 23/09/2014

Afghanistan Country Analysis

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

16 September: A Taliban suicide attack near the US embassy in Kabul killed three international troops and injured 13 Afghan civilians (Reuters).

9 September: A NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed 11 civilians and injured ten others, mainly women and children (Le Monde).
 
KEY CONCERNS

-  Around 2.4 million people are in need of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services, as a result of the landslides and flash floods of the first quarter of 2014 in Afghanistan (UNICEF, 30/07/2014).

-  The number of civilians killed or injured in the first six months of the year rose by 25% to nearly 5,000, as compared to 2013 (UNAMA, 04/07/2014). Between 1 June and 15 August, the UN recorded 5,456 security-related incidents across Afghanistan, representing a 10.7% increase compared to the same period in 2013 (UN, 09/09/2014).

- Over 165,000 Pakistanis and Afghan returnees in Khost and Paktika provinces are in need of food, WASH, shelter, and non-food items. Humanitarian access is challenging (OCHA, 17/09/2014).

- 5.7 million returnees in Afghanistan and 630,000 IDPs (OCHA 01/09/2014); 113,000 were displaced in 2013 (UNHCR, OCHA, 02/2014).

- 2.5 million people are classified as severely food insecure (OCHA), while 5.4 million are in need of access to health services and 1.7 million in need of protection.

- 4% of children under five (almost 500,000 children) suffer from SAM and eight provinces show GAM rates above 15%, breaching the emergency threshold (OCHA, 31/07/2014).
 
OVERVIEW

Natural disasters and armed conflicts in Afghanistan prompted a humanitarian crisis. Assistance needs include food, healthcare, and protection.

The Afghan government faces both internal and external challenges to its capacity and legitimacy, and the outcome of the 2014 presidential election will have implications for the country’s internal cohesion. The security environment is highly volatile and expected to deteriorate as international troops gradually withdraw from the country. 

Political Context

Despite a deal by both presidential candidates to form a national unity government by the end of August, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani both continue to claim that they have won the election. The results of a vote audit have yet to be released; Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the UN-supervised audit at the beginning of September, saying it was failing to clean out fraud (AFP, 15/09/2014).

The presidential election was held in Afghanistan on 5 April, with a second round on 14 June. Preliminary results on 7 July indicated that Ashraf Ghani, of Pashtun descent, won Afghanistan's presidential election, with 56.4% in the run-off vote against ex-foreign minister Abdullah, of Pashtun and Tajik descent. However, the results were disputed. Turnout was more than eight million out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million, far higher than expected. Thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace at the end of June in support of candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations of fraud (Reuters 27/06/2014), and an audit of ballots began on 16 July. 

Peace Talks with the Taliban

Although various official and informal sources have evoked renewed preliminary contacts between Kabul and the Taliban, no substantial talks have yet been launched. Peace talks with the Afghan Taliban have been stalled since mid-2013.

Security Context

Between 1 June and 15 August, the UN recorded 5,456 security-related incidents across Afghanistan, representing a 10% increase compared to the same period in 2013. On 14 June, as Afghans went to the polls for the presidential run-off, there were 530 security incidents, 237 of which were directly related to the election (UN, 09/09/2014). 

Nearly 5,000 civilians were killed or injured in the first six months of the year, 25% higher compared to the same period of 2013. Mortars and rockets caused almost 1,000 civilian casualties, a 160% increase on 2013 (UNAMA, 04/07/2014). 1,000 children were hospitalised due to conflict-related injuries, 100 more than during the same period in 2013 (OCHA, 31/08/2014). In the first three months of 2014, 187 civilians died and 357 were injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 13% more than in the same period of 2013, according to the UN.

68 cases of violence against journalists were recorded between January and June, representing a 60% increase in violence against media workers. Five were killed, including two foreign nationals (UN 26/08/2014).

The east and southeast are most affected by violence, although an increasing number of attacks are being carried out in the northwest and Kabul.

International Military Presence

On 18 June, NATO officially handed over authority in the remaining 95 districts in the south and east of the country to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).  There is widespread concern regarding the capacity of the 352,000 Afghan security forces to deal with intensified Taliban attacks as international forces slowly withdraw from the country.

The continuation of NATO support post-2014 will be determined by the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and the NATO-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement (NATO, 04/09/2014). Negotiations on the treaties started in November 2012 and late 2013, with the US planning to keep a force of 5,000-7,000 men in Afghanistan primarily for training and counter-terrorism purposes (The Diplomat, 05/09/2014). Both presidential candidates have affirmed their intention to sign the BSA (The Diplomat, 05/09/2014).

Taliban

The Taliban has been intensifying activities as international forces withdraw from the country, targeting foreign military, humanitarian personnel, and civilians seen to cooperate with the Government. Remote parts of southern and south eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, remain under insurgent control. Taliban numbers have increased by 15% since the beginning of 2013.

In August the Taliban intensified attacks on Kunduz (the Taliban's last stronghold before the US-backed Northern Alliance drove them out in 2001), engaging the army, police forces and local militias in combat (AFP 24/08/2014). In June, armed clashes involving 800 Taliban and Afghan forces took place in Sangin, Musa Qala, Naw Zad and Kajaki districts of Helmand province (UNAMA).

Incidents

On 16 September, a Taliban suicide attack near the US embassy in Kabul killed three international troops and wounded 13 Afghan civilians (Reuters, 16/09/2014).

A NATO airstrike on 9 September in Narang Wa Badil district, Kunar province, killed 11 civilians and injured 10 others, mainly women and children. The airstrike took place after local police and soldiers had come under attack (Le Monde, 10/09/2014).

On 4 September, a Taliban attack on a government compound in Ghazni province killed 13 security personnel, 20 Taliban, and left at least 60 other people wounded (AFP, 04/09/2014). On 30 August, Taliban shot 16 labourers on their way to work in the Qala-e-Kah district of Farah province; 12 were killed and four injured (UNAMA). On 10 August, a suicide attacker targeted a NATO convoy in Kabul, killing four civilians and wounding at least 35 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility (AFP, 10/08/2014).

In July, there was an attack on Shi’ite Muslims in Ghor province, and suicide bombings at markets in Khwaha Ghar district, Takhar province, and Urgun district, Paktika province (UNAMA 26/07/2014; WSJ, 25/07/2014; AFP, 24/07/2014; AFP, 15/07/2014). The attack in Urgun was the worst so far this year, killing 89 people. Attacks in Kandahar and Parwan killed 22 people (AFP 12/07/2014; AFP 08/07/2014; UNAMA 08/07/2014).).

Humanitarian Context and Needs

Access

Continuing tensions between Afghan security forces and government opponents, together with election-related protests, are hampering access to health services (WHO 01/09/2014). According to senior analysts, attacks have increased in almost every district where security has been handed over from NATO to Afghan security forces (IRIN, 09/09/2014).

The fluctuating security situation is continually changing the operating environment and access (WFP 22/05/2014). Movement restrictions are increasingly being applied to aid workers.

Security Incidents Involving Aid Workers

As of 15 August, there have been 117 cases of violence against personnel, assets and facilities in 2014, resulting in 37 deaths and 35 injuries among aid workers, 114 abductions and attempted abductions and the arrest and detention of five personnel (UN, 09/09/2014). In 2013, there were 167 cases of aid workers victims of violence; 44 staff members were killed, 43 wounded, and 80 kidnapped (Aid Worker Security database).

Disasters

Around 2.4 million people are in need of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services, as a result of the landslides and flashfloods of the first quarter of 2014 (UNICEF, 30/07/2014).

In the beginning of August, twelve families were affected by flooding in Mihtarlam district, Laghman province. Another 1,762 individuals were affected by flooding in several villages in Matun district, Khost. In Gardez district, Paktia, 100 families were affected by flooding, with 30 houses severely damaged, 40 hectares of land affected, and water sources contaminated. In Wardak province, 100 families were affected by flooding in six villages of Nirkh district; 52 houses were severely damaged (IOM/USAID 11/08/2014).

Between January and July 2014, a total of 210,530 people, mainly in northern and central Afghanistan, were affected by natural disasters, primarily from floods and heavy rainfalls. 874 people were killed or injured and 26,642 houses were damaged or destroyed (OCHA, 19/08/2014).

More Afghans have been killed through natural disasters since May than in all of 2013 (UN Humanitarian Coordinator).  Since May, about 150,000 people have been affected by flooding (compared to 65,000 in the same period last year), 175 killed, and over 16,000 homes destroyed. This figure excludes the 7,000 affected and 5,000 displaced by the landslide in Argo, Badakhshan province, where investigations are ongoing and the exact death toll has not been verified (OCHA 12/06/2014; IOM 22/05/2014).

As of 31 March, heavy rainfall resulting in flash floods on 24/25 Apr impacted 10 provinces of northern Afghanistan. Across the provinces flood waters destroyed homes, public infrastructure and roads. Thousands of hectares of agricultural land were destroyed. 67,000 people were affected (OCHA, 28/04/2014).

Displacement

There are 5.7 million returnees and 630,000 IDPs in Afghanistan (OCHA 01/09/2014); 113,000 were displaced in 2013 (UNHCR, OCHA, 02/2014).

IDPs

As of 31 March, 659,960 people were displaced due to conflict (UNHCR).

Clashes in Helmand province in June displaced significant populations from Musa Qala, Nawzad, and Sangin districts. The majority moved to Lashkargah and Nahari Sarraj districts. Most are with host families or in rented accommodation, while some are in emergency shelters. Displacement within Sangin is reported to be substantial (OCHA 14/08/2014).

Refugees in Afghanistan

Since military operations began in North Waziristan mid-June, approximately 165,000 Pakistani refugees and Afghan returnees have sought refuge in Khost and Paktika provinces of eastern Afghanistan (OCHA, 17/09/2014). They live mostly among scattered and overcrowded host communities. Some families are living in the open. Assessments indicate overcrowding, and inadequate WASH facilities. Food remains a concern. Access to the scattered villages is time consuming and expensive (UNHCR 24/08/2014).

Returnees

During the first seven months of 2014, 10,055 Afghan refugees (averaging 47 individuals per day) voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan: 7,168 from Pakistan, 2,741 from the Iran, and 146 from other countries. This figure is 65% lower than in the same period of 2013, partly due to uncertainty regarding the elections (UN, 09/09/2014), and the extension of Proof of Registration cards in Pakistan until 31 December 2015.  

As of 19 August, returning Afghan refugees made up 2% of families displaced from Pakistan’s North Waziristan. The returnees’ provinces of origin are mainly Paktika (35%), Khost (20%), Paktia (11%) and Baghlan (7%) (IOM, 15/07/2014). The returnees are in need of income-generating activities, vocational training, and technical education, according to assessment reports. Many returnees believe they had better living conditions as refugees in Pakistan (International Medical Corps, 31/08/2014).

Afghan Refugees in Neighbouring Countries

As of 31 December, an estimated 2.4 million Afghan refugees and illegal migrants are in Iran, including one million undocumented Afghans (UNHCR and IOM). Afghan refugees in Iran face persecution, arbitrary arrest, detention, beatings and harassment by authorities (Human Rights Watch 11/2013).

Roughly 2.9 million Afghan refugees and illegal migrants, including one million undocumented Afghans, are in Pakistan. Some 60% of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the burden is causing tensions. Kabul and Islamabad agreed on a UN-backed meeting to continue efforts to solve the protracted refugee situation.

An estimated 200,000 Afghan refugees are registered in other countries.

Food Security

People affected by flooding in northern provinces face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security. It is likely that 140,000 people will move from Stressed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security in the coming months. They will need renewed assistance as the lean season of February–April 2015 approaches (FEWSNET 31/07/2014).

In addition to the flood-affected, IDPs displaced by the conflict and returnees from Pakistan face food insecurity. Resources of host communities are limited (FAO 03/07/2014; UNHCR 03/07/2014).

An estimated 2.5 million people were classified as severely food insecure at 31 March (OCHA). A further eight million are food insecure (ECHO, 27/08/2014).

Agriculture and Markets

The average wheat price increased by 21.7% compared to  last year, and is 36.3% higher than the previous five-year average price, i.e. May 2009–2013 (FAO, 30/06/2014; WFP 13/08/2014). Afghanistan remains dependent on wheat imports as wheat is the staple food for most Afghans, and continuous currency depreciation is fuelling price rises (WFP, 31/07/2014). Compared to last year, bread and cereal prices have increased by 7%; vegetable prices have increased by over 21% (FEWSNET 03/06/2014).

An estimated 30,000 hectares of agriculture land (both irrigated and rain-fed) and perennial crops have been affected by flooding (OCHA 15/05/2014).

Health and Nutrition

The number of people in need of access to health services has increased from 3.3 to 5.4 million (OCHA). Conflict is causing widespread disruption to health services.

High numbers of wounded due to clashes in Helmand province, particularly in Sangin, are straining emergency healthcare. 528 people were recorded injured between 22 June and 23 July, with 360 referrals to Laskhargah hospitals in the same period (OCHA 14/08/2014). Nine health facilities in Helmand remain completely blocked due to ongoing hostilities (WHO 24/07/2014).

Cholera

In early September, the first confirmed cholera outbreak of the year was reported in Kandahar province (WHO 01/09/2014).

Diarrhoeal Disease

The rise of diarrhoea cases registered by the health clinic in Gulan refugee camp, Khost province, shows difficulties in accessing safe water sources (UNHCR 21/07/2014).

Malnutrition

Over 500,000 children under five years of age (4% of children under five) are severely malnourished. Provinces in need of urgent attention are Uruzgan, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Khost, Paktia, Wardak, Kunar, and Laghman, where GAM rates are breaching  WHO’s 15% threshold for an emergency (National Nutrition Survey, OCHA 31/07/2014).

As of 31 March, 53,000 people died from acute malnutrition, and 45% of 420,000 deaths among under-fives were attributable to under nutrition (OCHA).

Measles

Gulan refugee camp, Khost province, has recorded a measles outbreak, with 18 mild cases without complications or deaths (WHO 24/07/2014).

Polio

In 2014, eight polio cases have been reported, mostly in conflict-affected areas. The most recent case was reported on 17 June in Khost province, linked to the virus in North Waziristan, Pakistan (Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 13/08/2014).

Extensive cross-border movement is one of the major challenges to tackle such viruses. Kunar, Nangarhar, Laghman, and Nuristan, eastern Afghanistan, remain the four high-risk provinces for polio; four cases of the Pakistan poliovirus were reported between 1 January and 30 April. Afghan and Pakistani authorities agreed in July to cooperate in an anti-polio campaign in the border areas of their countries (DAWN, UNICEF 12/07/2014).

Protection

By the end of May, around 1.7 million people were in need of protection assistance, mainly IDPs and people otherwise affected by conflict. IDPs need durable solutions for their protracted displacement (OCHA).

Protection concerns are growing for Pakistani refugees and Afghan returnees in Khost province. Access to women and girls in Gulan camp remains a challenge (UNHCR 23/07/2014). The presence of landmines is also of concern.

The Afghan National and Local Police and three armed groups (Taliban, Haqqani Network, and Hezb-e-Islami) have been listed for recruitment and use of children.

The Taliban has been listed for attacks on schools and hospitals (Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict 02/06/2014).

Updated: 17/09/2014

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