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Snapshot 25–31 March 2015

Ukraine: Fears are growing of a new offensive in Mariupol, as non-government troops appear to be gathering nearby. A recent assessment has found that more than 1.6 million people need humanitarian assistance, nearly 1.1 million of whom are in non-government-controlled areas. 20–30% of IDPs are at risk of losing their status and benefits, due to a new mechanism to verify the addresses of IDPs.

Nigeria: Opposition candidate Buharu has been declared winner of the presidential election, but irregularities have been alleged, and there have already been protests in Rivers state. Boko Haram is suspected of attacks in Gombe state, including on polling stations, which killed seven, and there have been attacks on polling stations in Bauchi.

Yemen: Saudi-led aerial bombing has reportedly disabled the Houthis’ air force. It has also displaced some 4,500 people to refugee camps in Hajjah. Airstrikes killed 45 people in Mazraq refugee camp, and 25 in Sanaa. The Houthis advance south continued; they and their allies have taken Lahj governorate and Aden airport

Updated: 31/03/2015. Next update: 08/04/2015

Afghanistan Country Analysis

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

25–29 March: Two suicide attacks in Kabul, including one targeting a prominent Afghan MP, killed ten and injured dozens (AFP).

24 March: 13 people were killed in a bus attack in Wardak province (AFP).

23 March: A growing number of IDPs are living in informal settlements in major urban centres, with insufficient WASH facilities, food, education, and employment opportunities (NRC).

 

KEY CONCERNS

- 3,699 civilians killed and 6,849 injured in 2014, a 22% increase in casualties on 2013; there were 21% and 40% more women and children casualties, respectively (UNAMA/UNHCHR, 18/02/2015).

- 6.9 million in need of humanitarian aid in 2015. Badghis, Helmand, Kunar, Nangarhar, and Wardak most need assistance (UNICEF, 21/01/2015; OCHA, 25/11/2014).

- 298,940 refugees from Pakistan since mid-June 2014; new arrivals are vulnerable, while longer term concerns emerge from protracted displacement (UNHCR, 11/02/2015).

- 805,400 IDPs, including 156,200 people displaced by conflict in 2014 (UNHCR, 31/12/2014). 

- 3.7 million people are food insecure (IPC, 01/11/2014).

- 517,600 children under five suffer from SAM, and eight provinces show GAM rates above 15%, breaching the emergency threshold (UNICEF, 21/01/2015, OCHA, 31/07/2014).

 

OVERVIEW

Natural disasters and armed conflicts in Afghanistan have caused 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

The Afghan Parliament rejected 10 of 18 cabinet nominees on 28 January, leaving the country in uncertainty; the President will introduce a new list of 16 nominees on 1 April (AAN, 26/03/2015; AFP, 04/02/2015). Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah were sworn in as Afghanistan’s new President and Prime Minister, respectively, on 29 September 2014 (Reuters, 29/09/2014). The pair were rival presidential candidates in disputed elections (AFP, 26/09/2014). 

Peace Talks with the Taliban

Although preliminary contacts between Kabul and the Taliban have been renewed since December 2014, no substantial talks have been launched. Peace talks with the Afghan Taliban have been stalled since mid-2013.On 10 January, Afghanistan joined Pakistan in military operations against militants in both countries (British & Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group, 31/01/2015).

Security Context

Harassment and intimidation by anti-government forces, inter-tribal disputes, and clashes between state and anti-government forces remained major causes of insecurity and displacement in January, mostly in Parwan, Kunduz, Faryab, Helmand, Herat, and Kandahar. Military operations were intensifying in the north of Helmand end January  (UNAMA/UNHCHR, 18/02/2015).

3,699 civilians were killed and 6,849 injured in 2014, a 22% increase in casualties on 2013; there were 21% more women casualties, and 40% more children. Ground engagements, increasingly in civilian-populated areas, have become the leading cause of civilian casualties, while the mounting use of indiscriminate weapons and IEDs is of concern (UNAMA/UNHCHR, 18/02/2015).

Taliban

The Taliban claimed victory against NATO as it ended its combat mission at the end of 2014, and said they would continue their fight against remaining foreign forces in the country (Al Arabiya, 29/12/2014). Remote parts of southern and southeastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, remain under Taliban control. Taliban numbers have increased by 15% since the beginning of 2013, as the group has intensified attacks. They are increasingly financed by criminal enterprises, including heroin laboratories, illegal ruby and emerald mines, and kidnapping (UNSC, 02/02/2015).

International Military Presence

NATO formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan on 31 December 2014, moving to the Resolute Support mission made up of 9,800 US troops and 3,000 soldiers from other member states. The mission will focus on supporting Afghan forces’ fight against the Taliban, along with US counter-terrorism operations (Reuters, 01/01/2015). The number of US troops remaining in Afghanistan until end December is significantly higher than the 5,500 initially planned, and has been denounced by the Taliban (Le Monde, 24/03/2015).

Conflict Developments and Incidents

Helmand: Two Taliban attacks in Lashkargah in March, targeting provincial officials and apolice station killed 11 people and wounded 61 (AFP, 18/03/2015; AFP, 11/03/2015). A Taliban suicide attack targeting an army and police base in Sangin district on 3 March killed nine people, including five civilians, and wounded eight (AFP, 03/03/2015).

Kabul: Days after the decision to slow the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, two suicide attacks in Kabul on 25 and 29 March, including one targeting a prominent Afghan MP, killed ten and injured dozens (AFP, 25/03/2015). Gunmen killed six and wounded five at a Sufi mosque on 7 March, raising fears among Muslim minorities over increasing sectarian unrest (AFP, 17/03/2015; 07/03/2015). A Taliban attack on a NATO vehicle killed two people on 26 February (AFP, 26/02/2015). The capital was hit by at least 12 suicide attacks over 1 November–13 December 2014, mainly targeting foreigners (AFP, 13/12/2014).

Other incidents: 13 people were killed in a bus attack in Wardak province on 24 March (AFP, 24/03/2015). A roadside bomb targeting a district police chief killed three civilians in Kunduz on 21 March (AFP, 21/03/2015). Suspected Taliban gunmen abducted 30 members of the country’s Hazara Shi’ite Muslim minority on 23 February in Zabul province; a month later, there was no news of them (AFP, 24/03/2015; 17/03/2015).

Humanitarian Context and Needs

Planning figures are for 6.9 million Afghans in need of humanitarian aid in 2015, including 2.8 million children, compared to 7.4 million in 2014 (UNICEF, 21/01/2015). Badghis, Helmand, Kunar, Nangarhar, and Wardak most need assistance (OCHA, 25/11/2014).

Access

Access in January was most constrained in parts of Helmand, Kandahar, Ghor, Paktikam, Khost, Nangarhar, and Nuristan (WFP, 19/01/2015). Lack of access to IDPs remains a significant challenge, particularly in Helmand, where only two districts are accessible to humanitarian actors (UNHCR, 31/01/2015).

International military withdrawal raises concerns over reduced funding affecting the sustainability of services available to the population (Handicap International, 04/12/2014).

Security Incidents Involving Aid Workers

16 incidents against national and international organisations were reported across Afghanistan in February. Eight staff were abducted, two were killed, and two wounded. There were 293 incidents against aid workers in 2014 (OCHA, 31/12/2014, 30/11/2014). The Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan was directly affected by 37 incidents that resulted in 34 deaths among its personnel and 27 injuries in 2014 (UN, 15/01/2015).

Disasters

Nearly 59,700 people (8,176 families) in 133 districts of 24 provinces were affected by floods, heavy snowfall, and avalanches over 1 February–24 March, including 1,919 families in Nangarhar and 1,503 in Parwan. 281 people have died and 81 have been injured. Some 7,790 houses have been damaged or destroyed, and communication lines interrupted in some remote areas. Accessibility and security challenges due to road closures and areas controlled by non-state armed groups are hampering needs assessment and aid provision in some provinces. Priority needs are for food, NFIs, and emergency shelter (OCHA, 24/03/2015; IOM/USAID, 15/03/2015; IFRC, 18/03/2015).

Displacement

There are 818,160 IDPs in Afghanistan and 298,940 refugees from Pakistan in Khost and Paktika provinces; returns from Pakistan are increasing since December 2014, while around 2.5 million Afghans have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. 

IDPs

At 31 January, there were 818,160 profiled IDPs in Afghanistan, including 12,754 conflict-displaced populations profiled in January and 156,200 profiled in 2014. Nearly 213,200 IDPs are in the south, 204,950 in the west, 140,000 in the east and 133,100 in central Afghanistan. Priority needs are food and NFIs (UNHCR, 31/01/2015).

Refugees

Displacement from Pakistan to Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces has been ongoing since mid-June 2014. At 11 March, these provinces were hosting nearly 254,550 refugees (36,511 families) from Pakistan, 67% of whom are in Khost (UNHCR, 11/03/2015). Urgent needs remain for shelter, protection, health, WASH, food and mine clearance around camps (UNHCR, 11/03/2015; 11/02/2015; 04/02/2015).

More than 80% of refugees live in host communities, which are often remote and difficult to access, and stretched beyond capacity (UNHCR, 11/02/2015; 03/12/2014). New families arrived in Barmel district in Paktika, and Gulan camp in Khost in the first week of February, following military operations in North Waziristan. Gulan camp hosts 8,663 families. A re-verification exercise for refugee figures in Khost is ongoing (UNHCR, 11/03/2015).

An additional 600,000 Baloch refugees who have fled insurgency activities in Pakistan since 1986 are living in precarious conditions, notably in Nimroz (AAN, 31/12/2014).

Returnees

Returns of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan have increased following security incidents in the country, particularly the December Taliban attack in Peshawar. By 28 February, 41,209 undocumented Afghans had spontaneously returned in 2015 through the Torkham border, including nearly 19,000 in February. The average daily return rate in 2015 was 26 times higher than in December 2014. 37% have settled in Nangarhar province. 30–40% of undocumented returnees are vulnerable and in need of assistance (OCHA, 28/02/2015; IOM, 13/02/2015). As of 10 March, more than 6,000 Afghans had returned to Kunar in 2015 and were in need of assistance (OCHA, 10/03/2015). 

Afghan Refugees in Neighbouring Countries

As of 30 September 2014, there were 2.5 million Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries (USAID, 01/10/2014).

Food Security

At least 3.7 million Afghans are food insecure in 187 districts (IPC, 01/11/2014). IDPs inaccessible to humanitarian agencies, particularly in insecure districts in Helmand, are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), having lost much of their access to income (FEWSNET, 30/11/2014, 01/11/2014). Households displaced or otherwise affected by conflict and natural disasters will remain Stressed until June, as long as they receive humanitarian assistance (FEWSNET, 28/02/2015). At least 20% of households in Badghis province will move to Crisis from April to May, due to a below-average 2014 harvest and lack of dietary diversity during the lean season.

Agriculture and Markets

Floods and avalanches since 23 February have destroyed farmland and orchards across the country (Government, 28/02/2015).

2014 wheat production was 64% lower than 2013, and January 2015 wheat grain and flour prices have increased 12% on average compared to 2014, leading to excess sales of livestock; Badghis province is most affected (FEWSNET, 11/02/2015). Conflict in Helmand in 2014 hampered farmers’ ability to harvest their crops (FEWSNET, 01/11/2014).

Livelihoods

Political uncertainty over 2014 led to decreased investment in many sectors including construction and trade, which are key employers of casual labour. Faryab province saw the largest decline in casual labour wages: rates were 43% lower in September than in 2013 and the five-year average. They were 23% and 14% lower than 2013 in Badakhshan and Balkh provinces, respectively (FEWSNET, 01/11/2014).

Decreased prices for some cash crops compared to last year is limiting incomes (FEWSNET, 01/12/2014). Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has risen by 7% in a year, from 209,000 hectares in 2013 to 224,000 hectares in 2014 (UN, 12/11/2014).

Health and Nutrition

A spike in pneumonia cases and deaths has been reported among children under five, notably in Takhar province, following severe weather conditions. Access to health services is limited due to heavy snow and blocked roads (OCHA, 05/03/2015). Increasing reports of malaria and measles cases, especially in Paktika, Khost, Balkh and Zabul provinces, are a cause for concern (Government, 07/03/2015).

There is a shortage of trained surgeons, anaesthetists, and trauma capacity in conflict-affected areas (OCHA, 25/11/2014). Nearly 80% of maternal and reproductive health needs are unmet (WHO, 10/12/2014). Tuberculosis is also a high burden for Afghanistan, but many new cases were missed out in 2014 due to lack of close monitoring (Government, 24/03/2015).

Polio

One case of polio has been reported so far in 2015, from Helmand province. 28 cases were reported in 2014, mostly in conflict-affected areas, compared to 14 in 2013 (Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 25/02/2015; 14/01/2015).

Nutrition

517,596 children suffer from SAM (UNICEF, 21/01/2015). In Uruzgan, Nuristan, Khost, Paktia, Wardak, Kunar, and Laghman provinces, GAM rates were breaching the emergency threshold of 15% in mid-2014 (National Nutrition Survey, OCHA 31/07/2014).

An estimated 45% of all child deaths in refugee and IDP camps are linked to malnutrition (UNICEF, 21/01/2015). The presence of common animal diseases in areas of Khost and Paktika have reduced the availability of meat and milk products to Pakistani refugees and host communities (FEWSNET, 11/02/2015). Fewer than 20% of children with SAM and MAM received the treatment they needed in 2014 (OCHA, 25/11/2014).

WASH

1.9 million Afghans are in need of better access to safe WASH facilities (UNICEF, 21/01/2015). WASH conditions remain public health concerns in Khost and Paktika (FEWSNET, 11/02/2015). Additional latrines are needed in Gulan camp (UNHCR, 08/01/2015).

Shelter

A growing number of displaced populations live in informal settlements in major Afghan urban centres, in substandard and crowded accommodation, with insufficient WASH facilities, food, education, and employment opportunities. Women are particularly at risk, living with reduced access to education, health, and livelihood opportunities, and facing significant unmet mental health needs (NRC, 23/03/2015).

As of 11 December, 40,629 refugees were in 52 informal settlements in the capital. The most populated is Charahi Qamber (7,436 individuals) (OCHA, 17/12/2014). Overall numbers on people in informal shelters across Afghanistan are missing.

Education

Educational facilities in Khost are overstretched, with 344 schools employing 6,000 teachers and catering for around 360,000 children. There are 50,000 school-aged refugee children in Khost (Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 05/11/2014).

Protection
Child Protection

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).

Sexual and Gender-based Violence

There are reports of possible increased domestic violence among refugees as a result of camp conditions (UNHCR, 08/01/2015).

Detention

35% of detainees in national facilities have experienced ill-treatment or torture, including 42% of child detainees, according to a UNAMA study conducted between February 2013 and December 2014. 49% of detainees had experienced ill-treatment or torture during the same study over 2011–2012 (OHCHR, UNAMA, 25/02/2015).

Violence against Journalists

There were 129 incidents of violence against Afghan journalists in 2014, resulting in eight deaths, a 69% increase in incidents on 2013 (International Media Support, 15/01/2015).

Updated, 30/03/2015

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