Following 40 years of war and an already dire situation of increasing hunger, economic decline, price rises in food and other essential needs, and rising poverty over the past several years, over 2021 the people of Afghanistan faced intensified conflict, the withdrawal of international forces and then the takeover of the country by the Taliban in August.
The resulting political, social and economic shocks have reverberated across the country with a massive deterioration of the humanitarian and protection situation in the 4th quarter of 2021 and the outlook for 2022 remaining profoundly uncertain.
Afghanistan’s population is estimated to be 41.7m in 2021, of whom 51 per cent are men and 49 per cent are women. A staggering 47 per cent of the population are under 15 years old, giving Afghanistan one of the highest youth populations in the world. With a projected population growth rate of 2.3 per cent per annum, one of the steepest in the region, the country’s financially-dependent youth population is set to grow even further.
Population growth, internal displacement, higher-than- usual rates of cross-border return are contributing to increased strain on limited resources, livelihood opportunities and basic services, as well as an increase in protection risks especially for most at risk groups. It is estimated that there are more than 2.6 million Afghan refugees worldwide and more than 5.5 million people displaced by conflict inside the country.
Scope of Analysis
This Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) looks at likely evolution of humanitarian needs in Afghanistan throughout 2022 with an inter-sectoral approach to the analysis that recognises the multi-dimensional nature of people’s needs across sectors. The situation beyond 2022 remains extremely uncertain with a wide- range of risks that could upset planning assumptions. These risks and potential implications to 2021 planning are outlined in the risks section of this analysis (pg 49). The political takeover by the Taliban and the possible range of geo-political responses, as well as transformed security dynamics have made much previous analysis used to anticipate needs (trends in the “fighting season”) of questionable utility. Thus, forward projections beyond 2022 would be unreliable and so have not been included in this analysis.
All 2022 calculations are based on the joint planning assumptions that are outlined in the risk sections in regard to the evolution of the political and security situation, with different seasonal influences on needs throughout the year including the onset of winter, rainfall patterns, agricultural planting and harvest seasons, and others (see pg. 51 for seasonal influences on needs). Greater emphasis has been placed on the drought impact and economic fallout from the crisis in the analysis, under the assumption that large-scale conflict is likely to be a relatively smaller factor in driving needs then in previous years. This analysis will be updated on a rolling basis as conditions change.
Because of the multi-dimensional threat facing Afghanistan of economic collapse, political instability, conflict and climate, needs are deep and widespread across the country, affecting all provinces. While the broader categories of the populations of concern for 2022 will remain similar to 2021, new sub-groups of Afghanistan’s rural and urban communities whose vulnerabilities have been aggravated by the conflict, drought and economic shocks and years of lack of recovery, have been included.
Internally Displaced People (only includes newly displaced due to all causes in 2022)
Shock-Affected Non-Displaced People (people newly affected by floods and other natural disasters in 2022)
Vulnerable People with Humanitarian Needs (including protracted IDPs and those displaced before 2022, vulnerable protracted cross border returnees, IDP returnees, people affected by economic shock and income loss)
Cross-Border Returnees (newly returned in 2022)
Refuges and Asylum Seekers
This HNO applies protection, gender, age, disability, mental health and AAP lenses to its analysis with disaggregated data used throughout, where available.
Humanitarian Conditions, Severity and People in Need
The deteriorating context and an increase in population estimates (now 41.7 million people) have combined to leave a projected 24.4 million people in humanitarian need in 2022, up from 18.4 million people at the start of 202. These humanitarian needs estimates were calculated using the Joint Inter-sectoral Analysis Framework or JIAF approach, which looks holistically at the needs facing people in Afghanistan and measures the severity of these needs using a series of inter-sectoral indicators. The JIAF inter-sectoral analysis of needs revealed that there are needs in every province of the country. With extreme need in 29 out of 34 provinces and the rest in severe need, with almost all population groups of concern present in every province (except refugees who are centred in Khost and Paktika).
The analysis shows that the intensification of the conflict through August 2021, a consecutive year of drought, other natural disasters, Covid-19 and the broad-based economic crisis following the collapse of the Government has tipped many people from extreme poverty into outright catastrophe. With coping mechanisms and safety nets largely exhausted – as previous HNOs have warned --the collapse of basic services and development programming since August has pushed a large number of people reliant on development assistance into crisis. An updated Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis shows that in the first quarter of 2022, a staggering 23 million people, or 55 per cent of the population, are expected to be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC 3 and 4). 8.7 million people projected to be in IPC 4 – the highest number in the world. The fundamental drivers of food insecurity in Afghanistan include widespread poverty and economic fragility, extreme weather and climatic shocks, land degradation, and decades of conflict that have limited the spread of essential public services and safety nets.
According to the Global Citizen report on the Worst Countries for Gender Equality, Afghanistan is the worst place to be a woman. Afghan women and girls face unique vulnerabilities and risks as gender inequality is interwoven with the conflict dynamics and humanitarian needs. There are grave concerns about the roll-back on women’s rights and restrictions on their participation in life and society, with impositions introduced on education, right to work and freedom of movement of girls and women.
Even with 55% of the country already in humanitarian need, the possibility of a further deterioration is very real. The majority of the remainder of the country requires the continuation and restoration of services addressing basic human needs to prevent them from slipping into humanitarian crisis.