40 years of conflict continues to deeply affect Afghanistan. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure as well as conflict-related displacement remains high despite ongoing intra-Afghan negotiations. Nearly 3,500 civilian casualties were documented in the first half of 2020 after reaching record highs in 2019. More than 200,000 people have been displaced by conflict in 2020, and 110,000 people by natural disasters. This is in addition to the 4.1 million people displaced since 2012, many who show no sign they intend to return.
Against this backdrop, hundreds of thousands of Afghans spontaneously return or are forced to return, each year. Returnees often become de-facto internally displaced people as conflict and lost community networks prevent them from returning to their place of origin.
Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for humanitarians and the delivery of assistance continues to be delayed by access constraints. Despite high levels of needs, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) remains severely under-funded.
People we helped in Afghanistan in 2020
NRC Afghanistan seeks to protect and assist vulnerable women, girls, boys and men displaced by conflict and/or in hard-to-reach areas. NRC provides assistance to meet immediate humanitarian needs, prevent further displacement, and contribute to durable solutions. NRC maintains a presence in 15 provinces across the country with mobile teams accessing neighbouring areas. We implement programming across all of NRC’s core competencies, integrating protection and advocacy, and an emergency response team to support preparedness and response.
Covid-19 response and NRC
Amidst a fragile peace process and escalating conflict, Covid-19 has created new risks and humanitarian needs across the country and severely exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, most notably for internally displaced people, returnees and host communities.
For the displacement-affected communities, already at high risk for the rapid spread of Covid-19, the shocks of the pandemic have left families and communities struggling to cope. The loss of livelihoods and a dire food security and nutrition situation has forced people to use up their savings and take on debt, cut meals and medical expenses, and risk being evicted from their homes. The pandemic and subsequent loss of jobs has further disrupted children’s access to education. While the world struggles to cope, the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to ripple through Afghanistan and will require concerted and coordinated support from the international community.
Most of NRC’s programming throughout the country is ongoing with adaptations in accordance with government directives and physical distancing measures. In order to help the most vulnerable, NRC has:
- provided immediate life-saving cash-for-food assistance
- scaled up distributions of hygiene kits, hygiene promotion campaigns, handwashing stations and emergency water supplies
- communicated with communities and continued community engagement through sustained presence in displacement sites to strengthen information dissemination and community-based protection
- led the education task force to develop and provide self-learning materials while schools were closed, provided remote support to teachers, and supported essential WASH facilities for formal and non-formal schools and classrooms
- identified and assisted at-risk individuals in need of support to access humanitarian services and specialised assistance
- supported internally displaced people and returnees to obtain civil documentation to ease access to health facilities
- monitored protection concerns including evictions resulting from Covid-19, that would further expose vulnerable people to greater risks
NRC camp management in Afghanistan includes operations in emergency settings, informal settlements, and urban areas. Camp management teams work to enhance communication with communities, improve community participation, support inclusive site-level coordination, identify and provide support to individual emergency cases, and promote social cohesion. Our camp management teams:
- establish and run area-based community centres and outreach information sessions where displaced Afghans can access information about services and be referred for assistance
- establish and support neighbourhood/settlement/camp committees who disseminate information and solve problems in their communities
- support and lead area-level coordination mechanisms, including through facilitation of meetings between relevant stakeholders to address needs and gaps
- monitor and address specific protection issues, threats, and hazards in sites and neighbourhoods, reporting these to relevant agencies and advocating on behalf of the displaced population
NRC Afghanistan specialises in education in emergencies for school-age displacement-affected children, and the most vulnerable children from host communities. We work to improve access to protective and safe learning environments by supporting formal and non-formal education. Our teams:
- increase accessibility to schools in rural areas transitioning into city suburbs
- develop the capacity and train teachers and informal instructors
- help displaced and marginalised out-of-school children to catch up through accelerated and formal integration classes, including language and literacy classes
- support newly displaced children to reintegrate into public schools to minimise disruption of their schooling during displacement
- work with the Ministry of Education to increase the capacity of the Afghan government to respond to the urgent educational needs of displaced children, as well as those returned from neighbouring countries by constructing new schools and providing rehabilitation through school improvement plan
Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)
ICLA provides information, and legal counselling and assistance to displacement-affected Afghans on a wide range of legal matters within three thematic areas: housing, land and property (HLP); legal identity, including civil documentation (LCD) and employment law and procedure (ELP). Our ICLA staff:
- visit communities to conduct information sessions
- outline tailored instructions on how displaced people can claim their rights through tailored one-on-one legal counselling
- provide direct legal assistance through the formal justice, informal justice and administrative system to enable people to claim and exercise their rights
- use traditional dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve legal disputes, including housing, land and property rights cases
- provide information and follow up referrals to help people access essential services and support in complex protection cases
- conduct research and assessments to better understand displaced people’s HLP and LCD challenges
- advocate for displaced people’s HLP and property rights as the co-lead of the HLP task force
- support the formal and informal justice systems with a capacity building programme, through capacity building trainings and on-the-job mentorship programmes
Livelihoods and food security
Around 13.9 million people in Afghanistan (38 per cent of the total population) are experiencing severe acute food insecurity. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many displacement-affected Afghans lost their jobs and could not gain new employment or daily wage opportunities, thereby magnifying a dire food security and malnutrition situation. Meanwhile, prices for essential goods continue to be higher than pre-crisis levels, with some goods now 30 per cent more expensive due to the limitation of cross border trades.
In addition, uncertainty around the political and conflict situation has prompted many business owners to put their businesses on hold and decrease their investment, leaving the majority of workers facing joblessness. Our LFS teams:
- provide emergency food assistance to families displaced by drought or conflict and now living in camps
- help people start small businesses through business skills mentoring programmes and start-up cash grants – focusing on women and youth
- partner with private businesses to deliver demand-driven, high quality vocational skills training, along with post-training support to help graduates set up their own business or get hired by companies
- support private companies to grow their businesses, thereby generating sustainable salaried employment
- establish vegetable gardens and orchards in schools supported by NRC’s education programmes, to improve the nutritional awareness of students and their parents
- establish market hubs that support business activities and the creation of job opportunities
Shelter and settlements
Due to drought, conflict, and poor economic conditions, many Afghans live in inadequate and partially damaged housing. This may mean they are overcrowded, living in conditions where they are unable to stand within the shelter due to low walls, have rooms where there is no glass in the windows, have limited privacy and may be improperly protected from climatic elements. This may particularly affect women who often spend more time inside the house due to cultural reasons. Our shelter teams, whilst working side-by-side with our WASH, ICLA, education, livelihoods and food security, emergency, protection and camp management colleagues will seek to:
- support the construction of one- and two-room shelters for families with a occupier driven approach
- build schools as well as additional classrooms for existing schools and provide temporary classrooms
- collaborate with the community to construct shelters through a cash-based programme, providing cash assistance in exchange for constructing shelters
- advocate for shelters to be built to better endure natural hazards
- upgrade shelter to offer dignity, and better withstand natural hazards and climate
- provide temporary cash assistance to cover basic rent for the most vulnerable
- provide sealing off kits to families with damaged or poor-quality shelters
- provide cash-for-rent to cover their basic need for accommodation and offer a pathway to a transitional solution
- provide humanitarian energy solutions for households and the larger community
- construct trading centres, including markets
- construct community infrastructure
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) promotion
Water, sanitation, and hygiene practices are not a norm in many parts of Afghanistan, largely due to the lack of infrastructure and behaviour. In addition to this, Afghanistan is among the countries which are prone to climate change effects. The Covid-19 pandemic has put additional strains on WASH facilities. According to the 2019 Whole of Afghanistan Assessment (WoAA) more than 60 per cent of internally displaced people did not have access to basic hygiene items, particularly soap. Through many of our WASH activities, our WASH experts work closely with the shelter and education teams to promote integrated and safe programming. Our WASH teams:
- provide emergency water supply and sanitation facilities to support good hygiene practices for affected vulnerable populations
- construct improved latrines for households and improve access to safe water through community water points
- provide safe drinking water points, access to improved sanitation, hand washing facilities in schools, and establish grey water filtrations in schools for waste water management
- distribute hygiene kits and train families on how to use the hygiene kits through hygiene education promotion in communities and schools
- deliver market-based WASH programming in informal settlements
- provide Covid-19 hygiene kits and handwashing facilities
Gender and protection
Women in particular face many barriers in Afghanistan. Our teams integrate gender considerations in our programming. NRC is the only organisation in Afghanistan to work for the widespread acceptance of women’s HLP rights. Our all-female shelter team reaches female-headed households and widows – the most vulnerable people we serve. NRC reflected gender-related focus in its three-year protection strategy, including a commitment to enhance the understanding of displacement as a result of armed conflict on gender dynamics. The ultimate aim is to develop context-specific initiatives aimed at reducing exposure of women and girls to protection threats caused by armed conflict and other situations of violence.
NRC’s protection unit continues to implement stand-alone protection activities under the Protection of Civilians umbrella, which aims to limit the impact of armed conflict and other situations of violence on the civilian population. Our protection teams:
- work with affected communities to limit the impact of armed conflict and displacement on the civilian population through employing unarmed civilian protection methodologies, such as protection by presence at schools through community-based monitoring, awareness raising and sensitisation at community level, preparedness and early warning systems, and training of relevant stakeholders and duty bearers
- train and facilitate raising community voices for advocacy and negotiation with relevant stakeholders to implement civilian harm mitigation measures to limit the impact of armed conflict on the civilian population
- support individuals and households to access life-saving humanitarian assistance, including individual protection assistance through case management
- provide protection monitoring through the development and dissemination of protection monitoring reports and individual protection assistance activities
- provide protection mainstreaming, psycho-social support, and basic gender-based violence prevention trainings are provided for non-protection field staff country-wide in order to enhance understanding of protection principles and practices and be better able to make safe and relevant referrals of sensitive cases
- co-coordinate the Afghanistan Protection Cluster and co-leadership of the Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group
NRC Afghanistan works to ensure that conflict-displaced and natural disaster-affected populations have access to immediate lifesaving humanitarian assistance through effective emergency preparedness and response.
Through emergency preparedness and response planning, NRC Afghanistan has standing capacity to respond to a range of different emergency scenarios. NRC has put in place a broad set of preparedness measures, including early warning systems, ongoing risk and vulnerability assessments, capacity building of emergency response teams, the creation and maintenance of stand-by capacities and the stockpiling of humanitarian supplies.
- Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA)
- Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
- Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad)
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Common Humanitarian Fund (OCHA CHF)
- KfW Development Bank
- Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)
- Denmark’s development cooperation (Danida)
- Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- The United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM)
- Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
- Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
- PATRIP Foundation
- European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
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