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Snapshot 16–22 July

oPt: 583 have been reported killed and over 100,000 displaced since Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July. There are urgent needs for essential drugs, shelter, water, and food assistance in the Gaza Strip, requiring greater humanitarian space.

Syria: The recent UN Security Council resolution authorising UN cross-border and cross-line humanitarian aid is expected to enable assistance to reach 2.9 million more people.

Iraq: Minority groups are being targeted, with Islamic State reportedly giving Christian residents of Mosul 24 hours to leave the city. Insecurity and population movements are leading to the breakdown of procurement and distribution systems, impacting on the provision of essential goods and services.  

Philippines: Over 1.6 million people have been affected by Typhoon Rammasun, which hit the Philippines over 15-16 July, leaving 97 dead and 460 injured. Over 111,000 houses have been damaged and 518,700 people are staying in 1,264 evacuation centres.

Updated: 22/07/2014. Next update: 29/07/2014

Afghanistan Country Analysis

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

20 July:
The audit of 8.1 million votes started on 16 July. Only 435 of 23,000 ballot boxes have been checked so far (AFP).

17 July: The Taliban carried out an overnight attack on Kabul airport, in which four assailants were killed (AFP).
 
KEY CONCERNS

- More Afghans have been killed through natural disasters since the beginning of May than in all of 2013 (UN Humanitarian Coordinator, 05/2014).

- 4,853 civilian casualties in the first half of 2014, 24% higher than the same period in 2013. Ground combat is now causing more deaths and injuries than improvised explosive devices (AFP, 12/07/2014).

- Pakistani refugees and Afghan refugees in Khost and Paktika province in Afghanistan are in immediate need of food, WASH, shelter, and non-food items (OCHA, 29/06/2014).

- 5 million Afghans in Pakistan and Iran; 659,960 IDPs; 113,000 displaced in 2013 (UNHCR, OCHA, 02/2014).

- 1.7 million people in need of protection; 2.5 million are classified as severely food insecure. The conflict has caused widespread disruption to health services (OCHA).
 
OVERVIEW

Both disasters and armed conflict have prompted humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. 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 2014’s presidential transition will have implications for internal cohesion. The security environment remains highly volatile, with further destabilisation expected. The continued presence of international military personnel is seen as vital for the stability of Afghanistan.

Political Context                                                      

International Presence

The waning NATO military presence in Afghanistan is shifting the role of the international community to a more political and developmental one.

Regional Dimension

Afghanistan has close cultural, religious, and economic ties to its neighbours, and its internal stability is therefore of significant regional interest.

Pakistan: Tensions with Pakistan, in particular its relationship with the Afghan Taliban, negatively affect Afghan security and development. Pakistan is concerned about a security vacuum developing along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border following US withdrawal.

India: In 2013, Afghan President Karzai requested greater defence and security cooperation with India, which is now the fifth largest development donor in Afghanistan. So far, however, deploying troops and supplying heavy equipment is too much of a threat to India’s strained relations with Pakistan.

National Political Context

Presidential Election

Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani won Afghanistan's presidential election, according to preliminary results on 7 July. The figures showed Ghani won 56.4% of the run-off vote against ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah's 43.5%.

On 16 July, the audit of 8.1 million votes started. However, disagreements and a shortage of observers have already slowed the process, with only 435 ballot boxes (out of 23,000 total) checked in four days (AFP, 20/07/2014).

Turnout was more than eight million out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million, far higher than expected, and likely to fuel fierce arguments about fraud. Abdullah was set to reject the preliminary election result, heightening a political crisis that threatens to trigger further instability (AFP, 07/07/2014). Thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace in support of candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations of fraud at the end of June (Reuters, 27/06/2014).

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is of Pashtun descent and has chosen the Uzbek ex-warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum as running mate. Abdullah Abdullah, of Tajik descent, ran against Karzai in 2009, and was Karzai’s foreign minister until 2006.

Despite pre-election attacks by the Taliban as well as threats to voters, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) reported that around seven million people turned out to vote for the first round on 5 April, and polling day passed off without major attacks. Overall, the turnout of over 50% was larger than expected.

Peace Talks with the Taliban

Several attempts have been made by Kabul and the US to re-launch peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, which have been stalled since mid-2013. Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif promised, in November 2013, he would help arrange further meetings between Afghan officials and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former Taliban second-in-command and reported friend of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Although various official and informal sources have evoked renewed preliminary contacts, no substantial talks have yet been launched.

Security Context

Insurgents continue to control remote parts of southern and southeastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. Their numbers have increased by 15% since the beginning of 2013.

The east and the southeast are most affected by violence, although an increasing number of attacks are being carried out in the northwest and Kabul. Civilian casualties soared by 24% to 4,853 in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. Ground combat is now causing more deaths and injuries than improvised explosive devices (AFP, 12/07/2014).

There is widespread concern regarding the capacity of the 352,000-strong Afghan security forces. Afghan troop casualties climbed by 79% during key fighting months in 2013, as the Taliban has intensified attacks during NATO’s withdrawal, according to a US report. Afghan security forces and civilian casualties are close to the record levels registered during the peak of the insurgency in 2011. Police deaths have nearly since: an estimated 1,792 Afghan policemen died, and over 2,700 were wounded, between April and September.

International Military Presence

On 18 June, NATO will officially hand over authority in the remaining 95 districts in the south and east of the country to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). In May, British troops pulled out of their last outpost in Helmand. The last remaining British troops are in Camp Bastion, and are expected to leave later this year.

Afghanistan–US Bilateral Security Agreement

The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) will determine the scope and strength of the US military presence in Afghanistan. According to official sources, the US had planned to leave more than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for counterterrorism and training. President Karzai has been reluctant to sign the agreement, but the two candidates in the second round of the presidential election have both affirmed their intention to sign the BSA.

Taliban Activity

The Taliban is intensifying activities in Afghanistan as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraws. Since May, insurgents have targeted foreign military, humanitarian personnel, and civilians seen to cooperate with the Government.

In the first three months of 2014, the UN recorded 187 civilian deaths and 357 injured from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a casualty number up 13% compared to the same period in 2013. IEDs were the biggest killer of civilians in 2013, but rising numbers of Afghan civilians are being killed and injured

Militant Incidents

The Taliban carried out an overnight attack on Kabul airport, in which four assailants were killed by security forces or blew themselves up (AFP, 17/07/2014).

At least 89 people died when a suicide bomber attacked a busy market in Urgun district, Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan on 15 July (AFP, 15/07/2014). The Taliban denied involvement in the attack, having ordered militants not to target civilians (Reuters, 15/07/2014). The incident is the worst single attack so far this year.

A roadside bomb killed eight civilians in a vehicle in Panjwayi district, Kandahar. There was no claim of responsibility, however, roadside bombs are commonly used by the Taliban (AFP, 12/07/2014).

A Taliban suicide bomber killed 16 people, including ten civilians and four NATO soldiers, in an attack in Parwan province, east of Kabul. The attack also seriously injured six children (AFP, 08/07/2014; UNAMA, 08/07/2014).

In June, a coordinated assault by 800 Taliban fighters on police checkpoints and military posts began. Armed clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces have been taking place in Sangin, Musa Qala, Naw Zad and Kajaki districts of Helmand province (UNAMA). Sangin, a strategically important district at the centre of Afghanistan’s opium trade, has frequently been the scene of fierce fighting between the Taliban and US-led NATO forces (AFP).

At least 150 attacks killed 46 people across the country during the presidential run-off poll on 14 June. Two employees of the Independent Election Commission were killed in Helmand. Presidential front-runner Abdullah escaped an assassination attempt in which six people were killed.  

In May, two US citizens were injured in an attack by unidentified gunmen on a US consulate vehicle in Herat, western Afghanistan (AFP, 28/05/2014); the Indian consulate in Herat was attacked by four gunmen just days earlier, and two policemen were wounded (UNAMA, 23/05/2014; AFP, 23/05/2014).  The Indian consulate in Jalalabad was bombed in August 2013. Attacks in Jalalabad and Kabul, as well as Kandahar, Herat, and Panjshir provinces killed at least 45 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Panjshir province.

Humanitarian Context and Needs

Access

The fluctuating security situation continuously changes the operating environment and access (WFP, 22/05/2014). Active hostilities and threats of violence are most problematic in contested areas. Movement restrictions are increasingly being applied to aid workers.

Security and access constraints are challenging response and relief efforts in flood-affected areas.

Insecurity and Attacks against Aid Workers

Security incidents involving aid workers are increasing. There were 57 incidents of violence against humanitarian aid workers in the first quarter of 2014, with the number increasing month on month (OCHA, 17/04/2014). Some 266 incidents against humanitarian personnel, facilities, and assets were recorded in 2013, including 37 deaths, 28 arrests and detentions, 47 injuries, and the abduction of 80 personnel. Over 55% of incidents are attributed to insurgent elements, but incidents attributed to pro-government forces have risen significantly, especially in contested areas (OCHA, 10/2013). In 2012, 175 incidents, including 11 deaths, were recorded (OCHA, 30/11/2013).

Displacement

IDPs

As of 31 March, 659,960 people were displaced due to conflict. This figure represents an increase of 5,300 (UNHCR).

In 2013, conflict-induced displacement led to acute humanitarian needs, with a marked increase in previously stable provinces in the north, particularly Faryab and Badakhshan (OCHA).

Returnees

Many Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan due to ongoing military operations in Pakistan’s North Waziristan. Their provinces of origin are mainly Paktika (35%), Khost (20%), Paktiya (11%) and Baghlan (7%) (IOM, 15/07/2014).

From January to March, 2,346 Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan. This figure represents a sharp decrease (56%) compared to the same period last year, primarily due to the extension of Proof of Registration cards in Pakistan until 31 December 2015, and the uncertain situation leading up to the elections in Afghanistan. 

Refugees in Afghanistan

As of 9 July, over 112,000 people Pakistani refugees – or 14,616 families – were  registered in Khost and Paktika provinces in Afghanistan, having fled military operations in North Waziristan (OCHA; UNHCR, 09/07/2014; WHO, 08/07/2014). As of 13 July, 48 families in Paktika require NFI, food, and WASH support, and 33 families need tents. In Khost, 221 families need NFIs, food, and WASH, and another 77 families need shelter (IOM, 14/07/2014).

Afghan Refugees in Other 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). Roughly 2.9 million Afghan refugees and illegal migrants, including one million undocumented Afghans, are in Pakistan. An estimated 200,000 Afghan refugees are registered in other countries.

The protracted Afghan refugee crisis is placing an increased humanitarian burden on neighbouring countries and triggering tensions as Iran and Pakistan push for their repatriation. Afghan refugees in Iran face persecution, arbitrary arrest, detention, beatings and harassment by authorities (Human Rights Watch, 11/2013). Some 60% of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is causing tensions. Kabul and Islamabad agreed at a UN-backed meeting to continue efforts to solve the protracted refugee situation.

Disasters

More Afghans have been killed through natural disasters since May than in all of 2013 (UN Humanitarian Coordinator). As the flood season comes to an end, about 150,000 people have been affected (compared to 65,000 in the same period last year), 175 killed and over 16,000 homes destroyed in 2014. 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).

Food Security

An estimated 2.5 million people were classified as severely food insecure as of 31 March (OCHA). A further eight million are considered food insecure. IDPs, low-income and disaster-affected households across the country, and households in the extreme northeast, especially Badakhshan province, are especially vulnerable to food insecurity.

Some groups continue to face high level of food insecurity, particularly IDPs displaced by the conflict, returnees from Pakistan, and households affected by natural disaster. Resources of host communities are limited (FAO, 03/07/2014; UNHCR, 03/07/2014).

Food security outcomes are expected to be Stressed until September and needs will be highest for those displaced and those affected by the spring floods (FEWSNET, 29/05/2014).

Agriculture and Markets

Steady spring rainfall is likely to result in a larger grain harvest than in either of the previous two years. Some households are nonetheless currently acutely food insecure, including the newly displaced, flood-affected households, and households who lost orchard crops to frost (FEWSNET, 30-06-2014).

The average wheat price increased by 21.7% compared to the last year, and is 36.3% higher than the previous five-year average price, i.e. May 2009–2013 (FAO, 30/06/2014; WFP 13/06/2014). Compared to last year, bread and cereal prices have increased 7%l; vegetable prices increased most, 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

While most Afghans now have access to basic public healthcare, the quality is so low that many patients seek private services at a higher cost than they can afford (MSF quoted in IRIN, 02/07/2014). The number of people in need of access to health services has increased from 3.3 to 5.4 million (OCHA).

2013 saw a 60% increase in the number of people being treated for weapon wounds, stretching trauma care needs beyond the existing response capacity. The conflict is causing widespread disruption to health services. In Helmand province, there was an almost 80% increase in hospitalised injuries caused by conflict in 2013.

NGO-managed health clinics and hospitals suffered 13 incidents, the highest number so far this year (OCHA, 15/05/2014). The Health Cluster reported a 40% increase in security incidents in health facilities from January to April 2013 compared to 2012.

Malnutrition

At end March, around 1.45 million children under five and pregnant and lactating women were in need of nutrition assistance.  As of 31 March, there have been 53,000 avoidable deaths from causes attributable to acute malnutrition, and 45% of 420,000 deaths among under-fives were attributable to undernutrition (OCHA).

Polio

In 2014, seven polio cases have been reported, mostly in conflict-affected areas: five from the east and one from the south. Polio cases were detected in June in Uruzgan, Nangarhar, and Farah provinces (Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 02/07/2014).

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

Afghanistan is on track to stop endemic transmission before the end of 2014 (Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 11/06/2014).

Protection

For the Pakistani refugees and Afghan returnees in Khost Province, numerous protection concerns are rising, including the presence of land mines. Hot weather is causing heat exhaustion and dehydration among women and children (UNHCR, 27/06/2014).

At end 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).

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: 21/07/2014

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