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Snapshot 27 January – 2 February 2016

Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad: 86 people were killed and 62 injured, with 15 missing after Boko Haram set fire to Dalori, near Maiduguri in Borno state. The past week also saw attacks in Chibok that left 13 dead and 30 injured. 40 civilians were reported dead after Cameroonian troops announced they were carrying out a search for BH militants in the area. In Cameroon, 52 people were killed in BH attacks in January. In Chad, two suicide bombings in Lac region left three dead and 56 wounded.

Namibia: The drought that has been affecting Namibia since the first months of 2015 is worsening, as several reservoirs are drying up. Over 380,000 people are reportedly in need of emergency food assistance and almost a quarter of the population suffers from food insecurity. Widespread loss of livestock has been recorded in pastoral areas.

Turkey: Stability has deteriorated in recent months as fighting between government forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party has intensified. An estimated 200,000 people have been internally displaced in by conflict and military operations since July 2015, and 240 civilians have been killed. At the same time, Turkey is hosting over 2.5 million Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees, straining its response capacity.

Updated: 02/02/2016. Next update: 09/02/2016.

See the Crisis Overview 2015: Humanitarian Trends and Risks 2016, ACAPS' overview of long-term trends in humanitarian needs for major crises, and scenarios outlining their potential evolution in 2016.

Afghanistan Country Analysis

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

27 January: Unknown gunmen killed four workers of a demining NGO in Abbazhai village, Nahr-e Seraj district, Helmand province. Another worker is reportedly missing (UNMACA).

 

KEY FIGURES

- Over 1.1 million people are internally displaced because of conflict (ECHO 03/12/2015). Over 300,000 were displaced in 2015 (FEWSNET 31/01/2016).

- 8.9 million in need of humanitarian aid. Around 700,000 people are in need of emergency shelter and NFIs (Food Security Cluster 14/01/2016; OCHA 05/01/2016).

- At least 1.7 million people are in need of protection assistance (OCHA 05/01/2016).

- 1.76 million people are in IPC Phase 3 (Food Security Cluster 28/01/2016).

- At least 3.1 million people are in need of health assistance (OCHA 05/01/2016).
 

KEY PRIORITIES

- Food security is reported to be worsening due to increased instability and displacement, as well as slow economic growth and widespread poverty. Newly displaced people are at particular risk (FAO 15/10/2015; FAO 13/08/2015; FEWSNET 31/10/2015; WFP et al 30/11/2015).

- Health services are severely underequipped and understaffed, particularly in conflict areas (Medical Teams International 02/10/2015; OCHA 25/11/2014).

- Shelter needs for refugees as well as returnees are growing as winter unfolds (UNHCR 10/01/2016).

- Protection: Nine in ten women are reported to regularly face physical, psychological, or sexual violence (Al Jazeera 03/07/2015). Civilians are often intentionally targeted by the Taliban (Amnesty International 14/05/2015).
 

OVERVIEW

Assistance needs due to armed conflict and frequent natural disasters include food, healthcare, and protection. 8.9 million are reported in need of humanitarian assistance. 

The Afghan government faces internal and external challenges to its capacity, legitimacy, and stability. The security environment is highly volatile and has deteriorated since the withdrawal of most international forces. The outflow of people from Afghanistan significantly increased in 2015, despite calls from the government to stay and contribute to the reconstruction of the country.
Politics and security

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrew from Afghanistan in December 2014, leaving only around 12,000 NATO personnel to provide training and equipment to Afghan security forces (Talk Radio News Service 22/06/2015). A steep surge in violent attacks was recorded in the first months of 2015, making them the most violent since ISAF was set up in 2001 (Brookings 26/05/2015). The Taliban gained control of an increasing number of districts in 2015, notably in Farah and Faryab,  Badakhshan, Takhar, and Baghlan (UNSC 02/02/2015; ECHO 12/10/2015). They also attempted to seize control of provincial capitals over the last three months of the year (Long War Journal 16/10/2015, 14/11/2015). This change in strategy has pushed the US to stop the complete withdrawal of its troops, which was scheduled to take place over 2016 (BBC 15/10/2015).

Political instability

President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah were sworn in in September 2014 (Reuters 29/09/2014). Rival presidential candidates in disputed elections, they have been struggling to maintain a unity government (Reuters 08/07/2015; AFP 26/09/2014). Leaders of ethnic groups have criticised Ghani for filling key government posts with Pashtun kin (Reuters 08/07/2015; AFP 26/09/2014). Parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2015 were postponed because of security concerns and disagreements over procedures (Reuters 19/06/2015; local media 01/04/2015). A second package of recommendations for the electoral reforms was presented by President Ghani on 29 December, as he indicated that the parliamentary elections will be held in the period between summer and fall 2016 (Tolo News 31/12/2015; Reuters 29/12/2015).

Peace talks

Afghan officials and Taliban met in July 2015 in Islamabad, Pakistan, for a first round of peace talks (AFP 08/07/2015). The Taliban pulled out at the end of the month, most probably to deal with uncertainty over the leadership after the public announcement that Mullah Omar had died in 2013 (AFP 24/07/2015; The Telegraph 30/07/2015; The Age 31/07/2015). Four-way talks between the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the US started on 11 January 2016 in Islamabad, Pakistan, aiming to revive peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government (VOA 02/01/2016; Reuters 07/01/2016). On 24 January the Taliban indicated that preconditions for their participation in the talks included their removal from the UN’s terrorist blacklist and the reopening of their political office in Doha, Qatar (AFP 24/01/2016).

Pakistan–Afghanistan relations

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been tense; both states have accused each other of harbouring terrorists (Journal of Political Studies 2015). At the beginning of September, Afghanistan accused Pakistan of organising insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, indicating in particular the December 2014 attack on an army school (The Tribune 03/09/2015).

Conflict developments

In 2015, as of September, 8,346 civilians had been either killed or wounded in over 25,000 security incidents (OCHA 05/01/2016). 3,699 civilians were killed and 6,849 injured in Afghanistan in 2014 (UNAMA 18/02/2015).  

Helmand: As of 21 December, after several days of fierce clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces, the Taliban has reportedly gained control of Sangin district in Helmand, a strategic location for transport and for generating opium revenue (BBC 21/12/2015).  As of 25 January, media sources report that Afghan security forces involved in operations against the Taliban in Helmand province are undergoing significant restructuring (CTV News 25/01/2016). On 27 January, unknown gunmen killed four workers of a demining NGO in the village of Abbazhai, in Nahr-e Seraj district. Another workers is reportedly missing (UNMACA 27/01/2016).

Kabul: On 20 January, at least eight people were killed and 25 were injured in a suicide attack on a minibus carrying media workers in Kabul (AFP 20/01/2016; UNAMA 21/01/2016). On 17 January, two people were injured in an attack on the Italian embassy in Kabul (La Repubblica 17/01/2016). On 4 January, at least 30 Afghan civilians, including nine children, were injured in an attack on Camp Baron, a residential compound for civilian contractors, close to Kabul’s international airport (Reuters 04/01/2016). On 1 January 2016, a 12-year-old boy was killed and 15 people were injured by a bomb targeting a French restaurant full of foreigners (Reuters 01/01/2016). On 28 December one civilian was killed in a bomb attack on a NATO convoy, near Kabul airport (AFP 28/12/2015).

Other incidents: On 17 January, at least 13 people were killed in a suicide attack on a gathering of tribal elders in Jalalabad, Nangarhar. No group has yet claimed responsibility (AFP 17/01/2016; NBC 17/01/2016). On 13 January, at least six people were killed and 11 were injured in a bomb attack on a house near the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad (DAWN 13/01/2016).

Stakeholders

Taliban

The Taliban has regained strength, especially since ISAF forces withdrew in December 2014. The ultraconservative Islamic force’s activities have expanded from south and southeastern areas to northern provinces, especially Kunduz, Balkh, and Faryab (The Telegraph 30/07/2015; Daily Mail 28/09/2015). The Taliban is increasingly financed by criminal enterprises including heroin laboratories, illegal mining, and kidnapping (UNSC 02/02/2015). Media sources report that, in December, the Taliban leader Mansour was shot and wounded in Quetta, Pakistan, by one of the men belonging to his own group (AFP 11/01/2016).

Islamic State (IS)

Militants fighting under the IS banner in Afghanistan, including an unknown number of Taliban defectors and foreign fighters, have reportedly seized territory from the Taliban in at least six of Nangarhar’s 21 districts (Reuters, 29/06/2015). IS launched its first offensive against Afghan forces on 27 September, attacking a checkpoint in Nangarhar (The Tribune 28/09/2015).

International military presence

NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended on 31 December 2014, leaving just 13,000 troops in the country. The focus of the current mission is on supporting Afghan forces’ fight against the Taliban, along with US counter-terrorism operations (NATO 06/2015). Its headquarters are in Kabul, with four other bases in Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, and Laghman (NATO 27/02/2015). The US will maintain all its 9,800 NATO troops until the end of 2016 (BBC 15/10/2015). NATO troops from Germany, Italy, and Turkey have not set an end date to their presence (Fox News 11/10/2015).

Afghan National Security Forces

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are composed of around 350,000 personnel, including troops and police.

Pro-government militias

In Khanabad district, Kunduz province, the membership of US-funded pro-government militias, also known as local police, grew to 3,000 in 2015, 1,000 more than in 2014, according to the district governor Hayatullah Amiri. The militia was founded with the purpose of mobilising rural communities against the Taliban. However, civilians have reported a rise in abuse by these groups, including extortion, theft, and assault (Daily Mail 03/06/2015; IRIN 07/09/2015).

Natural disasters

Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes, floods, landslides, avalanches, and droughts. Landslides and flooding are particularly frequent (GNDR 04/06/2015; IOM and OCHA 02/07/2015).

Earthquakes

A 6.3 earthquake struck the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan on 25 December, with the epicentre in Zardak district, Badakhshan province. 680 people were affected over 22 districts. Food and non-food items are the main priorities. The earthquake’s impact has been significantly less severe than initially thought (OCHA 26/12/2015; 03/01/2016).

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India on 26 October had greater impact. As of 15 December, over 141,400 people were reported in need of humanitarian assistance, particularly shelter and food. 117 people were killed in Afghanistan, and 544 injured. Over 12,700 houses were damaged and around 7,380 destroyed. Damage was reported in 15 provinces: Badakhshan, Baghlan, Nangarhar, and Kunar were the most affected (OCHA 12/11/2015; FSAC 15/12/2015).

Displacement

Displacement in Afghanistan is triggered by conflict and natural hazards, with over 1.1 million displaced within the country as of November 2015 (IDMC 16/07/2015; ECHO 16/11/2015). Conflict-induced displacement increased throughout 2015 (ECHO 06/11/2015; IOM 05/10/2015). Afghanistan is also home to over 236,000 Pakistani refugees, and to around 130,000 documented and undocumented Afghans who returned from Pakistan in 2015 (ECHO 16/11/2015; HRW 18/11/2015). Around 68,600 among IDPs and returnees live in the Kabul informal settlements (KIS), enduring severe winter conditions and water, sanitation and hygiene shortfalls. 52% are children below 18 years of age (OCHA 31/12/2015).

As of 23 December, Kabul passport office still reported 4,000 applications per day after having peaked to 10,000 as of 24 September (Tolo News 23/12/2015; VOA 24/09/2015).

IDPs

More than 1.1 million people were reported internally displaced due to conflict as of December, including more than 300,000 newly displaced in 2015 (FEWSNET 31/01/2016; ECHO 03/12/2015). Access to water, food, adequate shelter, and employment opportunities is very limited for people displaced in remote and inaccessible areas (IDMC 31/10/2015).

Refugees and asylum seekers

As of 31 December, around 237,000 Pakistani refugees were reported in Afghanistan, with at least 67,000 living in Gulan camp in Khost province. 67% are under 18 years of age (UNHCR 24/01/2016; OCHA 20/01/2016). Displacement from Pakistan to Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces began in mid-June 2014 due to military operations in Pakistan’s FATA region, and ended in 2015 as UNHCR started implementing its return plan for the displaced and refugees. 

Refugee returnees

Between January and October 2015, over 54,700 registered and 95,700 undocumented Afghans returned from Pakistan. Over 2,700 registered and 260,500 undocumented Afghans returned from Iran. 20,000 of the undocumented returnees were deported from Pakistan, and around 200,000 from Iran (USIP 13/01/2016; Tolo News 19/12/2015). The number of documented Afghan refugees returning home from Pakistan under the UNHCR programme more than tripled compared to the 16,995 of 2014 (UNHCR 21/12/2015). Police abuse of Afghans in Pakistan is reportedly pushing many refugees to return (UNHCR 31/05/2015; HRW 17/11/2015; Reuters 04/09/2015).

Refugees from Afghanistan in other countries

Pakistan: As of 3 December, over 1,543,000 registered Afghan refugees, and an estimated 1,400,000 unregistered, are reported to be in Pakistan (ECHO 03/12/2015). In Sindh province, only 67,000 of an estimated one million Afghan refugees are registered (DAWN 31/08/2015).

On 12 January, Pakistan decided to extend the permit of residence (PoR) of registered Afghan nationals for six months, allowing them to stay in Pakistan until 30 June 2016. Human rights watch released a statement to advocate with Pakistani government for a further extension of PoRs up to end of 2017 (DAWN 14/01/2016; HRW 16/01/2016).

Iran: As of 3 December, 982,027 registered Afghan refugees, and an estimated 1,500,000 unregistered, are reported to be in Iran (ECHO 03/12/2015).

Europe: Overall 80,900 Afghans entered Europe as asylum seekers in 2015 (ECHO 16/11/2015; UNHCR 29/11/2015).

Humanitarian access

Access in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2015 as insecurity grew. The Taliban has historically targeted humanitarian workers, and the situation is expected to worsen further as the Taliban controls an increasing number of districts throughout the country (AFP 06/11/2015; The Guardian 04/06/2015; Humanosphere 03/06/2015). Access following natural disasters can be challenged by the terrain and lack of adequate transportation infrastructure (USAID 18/11/2015; OCHA 12/11/2015).

Access of relief actors to affected populations

Humanitarian presence is falling. Security fears are causing a reduction in applications to work in the country (AFP 06/11/2015). In 2015, 73 aid workers were reported to have been attacked: 39 national aid workers were killed, 21 wounded, and nine kidnapped; four international aid workers were kidnapped (Aid Workers Security Database 04/01/2016). On 3 October, a hospital run by MSF in Kunduz was hit by a US airstrike. 30 people were reported dead, and at least 37 injured (Reuters 05/10/2015; MSF 09/10/2015; 26/10/2015; BBC 05/10/2015).

On 28 December, a female health worker engaged in a polio vaccination campaign in Kandahar was shot dead, and another person was severely injured (Reuters 28/12/2015).

Security and physical constraints

Severe winter-weather conditions are affecting road access in snowbound districts of Badakhshan province (OCHA 26/12/2015).

Food security and livelihoods

Over 1.76 million people are reported to be in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis). 1.8 million are reported to be in need of food assistance. Overall chronic food insecurity is considered to be much higher. In January, 2016, 7.3 million people are moderately food insecure. Women and children are the most vulnerable (OCHA 05/01/2016; Food Security Cluster 31/01/2016; 28/01/2016; 14/01/2016). Female-headed households are 50% more likely to be food insecure than others, due largely to lower incomes and consequent poorer diet (FAO 10/09/2015).

Food security is reported to be worsening due to increased instability and displacement, as well as slow economic growth and widespread poverty. Newly displaced people are at particular risk of severe food insecurity (FAO 15/10/2015; FAO 13/08/2015; FEWSNET 31/10/2015; WFP et al 30/11/2015). Farmers in Kunduz have been unable to resume production since fighting in October due to insecurity and the contamination of fields with explosives (IRIN 24/11/2015).

The wheat and fruit harvests in 2015 were more favourable than in 2014, with improvements in market and household stocks. However, the wheat harvest remained below the five-year average (FEWSNET 31/10/2015).

Health

At least 3.1 million people are reportedly in need of health assistance at the end of 2015 (OCHA 05/01/2016). Health services are severely underequipped and understaffed (Medical Teams International 02/10/2015). There is a shortage of trained surgeons, anaesthetists, and trauma capacity in conflict-affected areas (OCHA 25/11/2014). Gaps in health services also include lack of maternal care and problems in the delivery of treatment for victims of sexual and gender-based violence (OCHA 31/07/2015; Medical Teams International 02/10/2015).

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two remaining countries where polio is endemic (DAWN 05/11/2015). 19 polio cases were recorded in 2015, compared to 28 in all 2014 (GPEI 30/12/2015).

 Prevalence of diarrhoea, cholera, and malaria is high nationwide, due to poor WASH conditions (ACTED 10/11/2015).

Heroin and opium abuse

3.5 million people (11% of the population) are involved in abuse of heroin and opium-derivatives, according to the Ministry of Health. Between 650,000 and 890,000 are women, and 100,000 are children (IWPR 03/12/2015). High rates of unemployment are reportedly exacerbating issues of drugs abuse (IWPR 07/12/2015).

Nutrition

At the end of 2015, around 2.9 million people are reported to be in need of some kind of nutrition assistance (OCHA 05/01/2016). The nutrition situation is reported to be worsening, with over 500,000 children reportedly affected by severe acute malnutrition in 2015, compared to 360,000 in 2014 (UNICEF 12/09/2015; IASC 17/09/2015).

WASH

Approximately 65% of the urban population and 81% of people living in rural areas do not have access to clean drinking water (ACTED, 10/11/2015). Access to improved sanitation is also generally low, at an average value of 29%. No city in Afghanistan has a comprehensive and functional sewage system (government 22/09/2015). As of 31 December, around 1.5 million people were reported to be in need of WASH assistance in 2015 (OCHA 05/01/2016).

Shelter and NFIs

Shelter is among the priority needs, given the high number of people displaced and the harsh climate. (IOM 05/10/2015). At the end of 2015, over 700,000 people are reported to be in need of emergency shelter and NFIs (OCHA 05/01/2016).

So far, the winter has been milder than usual. As of 20 January 2016, 12% of the population is reported to be exposed to severe winter weather (OCHA 20/01/2016). As winter unfolds, shelter is a particular need for Afghan returnees, as well as refugees in Afghanistan (UNHCR 10/01/2016).

Education

Despite enrolment rates having registered a steady increase over the last years, more than 4 million children are still out of school, with particular issues in terms of gender equality in access to education (BBC 02/11/2015; UNICEF 23/07/2015). IS has reportedly started teaching its ideology in schools in the districts under their control, such as Shaigal, in Kunar province (PBS 17/11/2015).

In Helmand province, more than 150 schools have been forced to close due to intensification of conflict, leaving around 100,000 students vulnerable to potential recruitment by militant factions (IRIN 16/12/2015).

Protection

The deterioration in security is bringing protection needs to the fore, as civilians are being targeted. At least 1.7 million people are reported to be in need of some form of protection assistance, with reported risks for over 6.3 million people (OCHA 05/01/2016). Violence against women is on the rise, including sexual violence (Tolo News 26/11/2015). Women’s life in Afghanistan, especially in territories controlled by the Taliban insurgents, is particularly hard. Nine women out ten are reported to regularly face physical, psychological, or sexual violence. Forced marriage, often underage, is also a severe issue (Al Jazeera 03/07/2015). Additionally, during Taliban offensives, civilians are often intentional targets, suffering severe injuries or death. (Amnesty International 14/05/2015).

Afghan local police have reportedly been involved in intimidation, physical abuse or violence, bribe-taking, salary fraud, and theft. Incidents of rape, drug trafficking, drug abuse and the selling or renting of local police weapons and vehicles have also been reported (ICG 05/06/2015).

Mines and ERW

Mines and IEDs pose a significant threat. 1,175 casualties were reported between April 2014 and March 2015, triple the number of the previous year (MACCA 15/09/2015; 08/09/2014).

22% of civilian casualties over January–June were caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) (US Ministry of Defense 04/09/2015). An average of 98 civilians per month are recorded as victims of mines or ERW (MAPA 14/09/2015).

Funding shortfalls might jeopardise demining operations (MAPA 16/09/2015).

Gender

UNAMA registered 44 cases of sexual violence between January 2014 and January 2015 (UN Security Council 15/04/2015). Sexual violence is underreported because of resulting social stigma as well as lack of access to Taliban-controlled areas. During fighting in Kunduz, women were particularly targeted, and experienced rape and harassment (AFP 17/10/2015).

Children

40 reports of sexual violence against children, affecting 27 boys and 24 girls, were registered by UNAMA between September 2010 and December 2014 (UNAMA 24/08/2015). The Afghan national police, local police, and armed groups have been listed for recruitment and use of children (Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict 02/05/2015).

Vulnerable groups

When taking control of Kunduz the Taliban reportedly targeted and kidnapped several media workers, occupied the headquarters of some news agencies and destroyed equipment (RSF 29/09/2015).

Updated: 01/02/2016