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Snapshot 22–28 April 2015

Nepal: The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on 25 April has affected 8 million people. As of 28 April, 5,057 people have been reported dead, and more than 8,500 injured. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in tents, while the villages closest to the quake’s epicentre remain inaccessible.

Burundi: President Nkurunziza has confirmed he is seeking a third term in power, and insecurity in the country is growing, with two killed during protests in the capital. 800 people are crossing into Rwanda every day. 20,400 are now in Rwanda, and 5,000 in DRC, as tensions relating to elections continue to increase.

Niger: 3,080 cases of measles were recorded across the country from 1 January to 23 April, with 77% in Zinder region. WHO reported another 1,150 suspected cases of meningitis, including 129 deaths, have been recorded for all regions except Diffa 1 January–27 April.

Updated: 28/04/2015. Next update: 05/05/2015

Afghanistan Country Analysis

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

22 April: Number of refugees in Khost and Paktika provinces have increased to 242,732, compared to 241,640 in the last update (UNHCR).

22 April: The Taliban announced the start of its annual spring offensive (Trust.org).

20–27 April: Security incidents killed 18 people in Helmand, Uruzgan, Laghman province and Nimroz provinces (international media).

 

KEY CONCERNS

- Between January and March 2015, 1,810 civilian casualties; casualties from ground engagements and mortars and rockets rose 8% and 47% respectively compared to the same period in 2014; women and children casualties continue to increase (UNAMA, 12/04/2015).

- 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).

- 241,640 refugees from Pakistan since mid-June 2014; long-term concerns from protracted displacement (UNHCR, 06/04/2015; 11/03/2015).

- 829,300 IDPs, including 156,200 people displaced by conflict in 2014 (UNHCR, 28/02/2015; 31/12/2014). 

- Nearly 68,000 people (9,300 families) in 137 districts of 24 provinces have been affected by floods, heavy snowfall, and avalanches over 1 February–15 April. Priority needs are for food, NFIs, and emergency shelter (ECHO, 15/04/2015; IFRC, 18/03/2015).

- 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 political instability. The security environment is highly volatile and expected to deteriorate as international troops gradually withdraw from the country.

Political Context

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani introduced a list of 16 new cabinet appointments on 1 April, replacing the candidates rejected by Parliament end January (local media, 01/04/2015; 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

Clashes between state and anti-government forces, inter-tribal disputes and harassment and intimidation by anti-government forces, remained major causes of insecurity and displacement in February, mostly in Helmand, Kunduz, Kapisa, Logar, and Maidan Wardak. Military operations intensified in the north of Helmand during the second half of February, and turned to the west/southwest early March (UNHCHR, 28/02/2015). On 22 April, the Afghan Taliban announced the start of its spring offensive, specifying it would target foreign embassies and government officials, as well as military (Trust.org, 22/04/2015).

There were 1,810 civilian casualties between 1 January and 31 March (655 killed, 1,155 injured). Civilian casualties from ground engagements rose by 8%, casualties from mortars and rockets by 47%, and women and children casualties continue to increase. The sustained use of indiscriminate weapons and IEDs is of concern (UNAMA, 12/04/2015). 3,699 civilians were killed and 6,849 injured in 2014, a 22% increase in casualties on 2013 (UNAMA, 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 south-eastern 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

Balkh: Gun and grenade exchanges during a Taliban siege of a court killed at least ten people and wounded dozens on 9 April (AFP, 09/04/2015).

Ghazni: Militants have beheaded five Shiites who were recently abducted (AFP, 17/04/2015). A roadside bomb killed 12 in Khogyani district on 10 April (AFP, 10/04/2015). A landmine explosion killed seven on 30 March in the province (AFP, 31/03/2015).

Helmand: On 20 April, Taliban militants attacked a police station in Lashkargah, killing three officers (Trust.org 20/04/2015). Two Taliban attacks in Lashkargah in March, targeting provincial officials and a police 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, including five civilians, and wounded eight (AFP, 03/03/2015).

Kabul: A suicide attack targeting a NATO convoy in Kabul wounded three on 10 April (AFP, 10/04/2015). An explosion targeting Afghan police vehicles in Kabul killed six people on 6 April (AFP, 06/04/2015). 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).

Nangabhar: A suicide attack killed 33 people and wounded 115 others in Jalalabad. President Ghani said Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, making this its first major attack in the country (AFP, 18/04/2015). A suicide attack targeting a NATO convoy killed three and wounded four (AFP, 10/04/2015).

Other incidents: On 26 April, in Uruzgan, the acting police chief was killed by a fellow officer, about a month after his predecessor was assassinated (Trust.org, 26/01/2015). On 25 April, five civilians were killed and 11 injured by a mortar attack in Laghman province (AFP, 25/05/2015). A suspected Taliban roadside bomb killed eight civilians in Khash Rod district of southwestern Nimroz province (23/04/2015). An explosion targeting Afghan police vehicles in Baghlan killed three people on 6 April (AFP, 06/04/2015). An explosion in Logar province killed seven on 3 April (AFP, 03/04/2015). A suicide attack at an anti-corruption rally in Khost killed at least 16 people and wounded 40 on 2 April (AFP, 02/04/2015).

Suspected Taliban gunmen abducted 30 members of the country’s Hazara Shi’ite Muslim minority on 23 February in Zabul province; two months later, there was no news of them (Trust.org 20/04/2015; 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, Paktika, 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

In Gardez, Paktia province, 19 mine clearance workers were abducted and released two days later through mediation with local elders (Trust.org, 20/04/2015; 21/04/2015). Five members of an NGO’s national staff, abducted in Uruzgan province on 3 March, were found dead on 10 April (UN, 11/04/2015).

In March, there were 19 incidents against national and international NGOs.  Four people were wounded, ten were abducted, and two were arrested (OCHA, 19/04/2015). There were 293 incidents against aid workers in 2014, including 57 killed (UN, 11/04/2015; OCHA, 31/12/2014). The Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan was directly affected by 37 incidents resulting in 34 deaths among its personnel and 27 injuries in 2014 (UN, 15/01/2015).

Disasters

Nearly 68,000 people (9,300 families) in 137 districts of 24 provinces have been affected by floods, heavy snowfall, and avalanches over 1 February–15 April. Recent floods have affected Baghlan and Badghis province. 291 people have died. Nearly 9,000 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 (ECHO, 15/04/2015; IOM/USAID, 15/03/2015; IFRC, 18/03/2015).

Displacement

There are 829,300 IDPs in Afghanistan and 242,732 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 end February, there were 829,300 profiled IDPs in Afghanistan, including 46% displaced in January, and 156,200 displaced by conflict in 2014. Nearly 213,200 IDPs are in the south, 206,430 in the west, 140,000 in the east and 133,100 in central Afghanistan. Military operations in Helmand have triggered displacement since February and by 31 March, the Kandahar Provincial Disaster Management Committee (PDMC) had reported 1,896 displaced families. Priority needs are food and NFIs; health needs also emerged in the south (UNHCR, 28/02/2015, 31/12/2014, OCHA 19/04/2015).

Refugees

Displacement from Pakistan to Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces has been ongoing since mid-June 2014. As of 22 April, these provinces were hosting around 242,732 refugees (35,252 families) from Pakistan, 72% of whom are in Khost (UNHCR, 22/04/2015). Urgent needs remain for shelter, nutrition, and WASH (UNHCR, 08/04/2015; 01/04/2015).

Around 74% of refugee families live in host communities, which are often remote and difficult to access, and stretched beyond capacity, while 26% are in Gulan camp in Khost. An unknown number of spontaneous returns of refugees to Pakistan have also been reported (UNHCR, 14/04/2015; 08/04/2015).

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 Afghans from Pakistan have increased following security incidents in the country, particularly the December Taliban attack in Peshawar. Exact numbers are not available. As of 23 March, local media reported 55,000 undocumented Afghans had returned home in 2015, including 19,000 who have reportedly been deported (local media, 30/03/2015). However, USAID reported approximately 48,000, both registered and unregistered (USAID, 16/04/2015). 30–40% of undocumented returnees are vulnerable and in need of assistance (OCHA, 28/02/2015; IOM, 13/02/2015).

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 and households affected by heavy rains and snowfall in 2015, including in Badakhshan, Bamyan, Daykundi, Nuristan, and Ghor provinces, are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June (FEWSNET, 31/03/2015). 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 (FEWSNET, 11/02/2015). In October 2015, it is estimated that 500,000–990,000 people will be in IPC Phase 3 or higher (FEWSNET 20/04/2015).

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 income (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 (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). 445 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles have been reported in the first quarter of 2015: 581 cases were confirmed for all 2014 (WHO, 26/04/2015).

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 and 37 in 2012 (WHO, 26/04/2015; 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). Refugee influxes have stretched already limited water and hygiene resources and infrastructure in Khost and Paktika; lack of solid waste management and latrines are major challenges (UNHCR, 08/04/2015).

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 teaching 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).

Detention

A UNAMA study conducted between February 2013 and December 2014 showed that 35% of visited detainees in national facilities have experienced ill-treatment or torture, including 42% of child detainees. The same type of study over 2011-2012 showed 49% of detainees had experienced ill-treatment or torture (OHCHR, UNAMA, 25/02/2015).

Mines and ERW

4,271 minefield and battlefield remain in Afghanistan, corresponding to almost 536 km2 in 255 districts of 33 provinces (MAPA/MACCA, 06/04/2015). As of 23 April, 919,546m2 in Gulan camp has been cleared as well as 1,045,549m2 around the camp, where refugees have settled more recently (UNHCR, 23/04/2015).

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).

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is underreported because of the lack of access to areas controlled by Taliban and because of the social stigma attached to it. Between January 2014 and January 2015, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) registered 44 cases (UN Security Council, 15/04/2015).

 

Updated, 27/04/2015

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