Memorandum submitted by the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF)
As many as 128,000 Afghan children may die over
the next six months from malnutrition, measles, diarrhoea, and
respiratory and other infections, exacerbated by winter, displacement
and lack of basic services. At least 1.7 million children and
1 million women of child-bearing age remain in urgent need of
UNICEF's goal is to prevent the death from cold,
illness and malnutrition of Afghan children, whether they are
displaced or stranded in their own communities during the winter.
UNICEF has so far dispatched 44 relief convoys
into Afghanistan, where 44 UNICEF national staff allocate supplies
to local partners and NGOs for distribution to beneficiaries.
In the coming months, if security and weather conditions permit,
UNICEF and partners will attempt to gain greater access to children
and women and to provide them with treatment, warm clothing, blankets,
measles vaccination, vitamin A and supplementary food.
UNICEF recently took part in a mission to Badakshan
and aims to have international staff back inside Afghanistan as
soon as permitted by UN security. UNICEF will also continue to
give support to refugee and displaced populations in Pakistan,
Iran and Tajikistan. We have initiated recovery and rehabilitation
planning with Afghan groups inside the country, in neighbouring
countries and overseas.
Against a September appeal target of $36 million,
UNICEF has received contributions and firm pledges to the value
of $20.8 million and indications of support for an additional
$13.4 million. A rapid contribution of £3 million, and existing
humanitarian capacity building support from DFID, helped UNICEF
to buy supplies and equipment and begin airlifts and convoys as
early as 29 September.
Under the leadership of OCHA, a Crisis Management
Group, which includes all major agencies, is playing an important
regional and strategic coordination role. However, UN and other
agencies are still only able to deliver a small proportion of
what is needed inside the country. They need to scale up operations.
In this regard, UNICEF would like to stress the following:
UNICEF reiterates the UN Secretary
General's desire to see military operations end as soon as possible
so that humanitarian relief efforts can go forward at full speed.
We recommend that the Security
Council call on the warring factions to stop immediately the recruitment
and use of child soldiers and to facilitate their demobilisation
All parties to the conflict must
be urged to refrain from using landmines and cluster bombs.
Any humanitarian operation using
military assets must retain its civilian and impartial nature.
Even while conflict continues
and the delivery of humanitarian assistance remains the priority,
reconstruction should begin as soon as possible, especially at
Meeting the survival and protection
needs of displaced and refugee women, adolescents and girls should
be central to the planning, implementation and monitoring of relief
and reconstruction operations
1. Children in Afghanistan are facing an
overwhelming, life-threatening combination of dangers. These include:
chronic and deep-seated underdevelopment
and extreme impoverishment dating from before Afghanistan's 20
the destruction of most of the country's
chronic vulnerability arising from
the erosion of individual and community capacity by more than
two decades of war, other forms of violence, human rights abuses
severe, institutionalised gender
discrimination depriving half the population of their human rights;
high levels of internal displacement
resulting from the above factors, food scarcity, the loss of productive
assets, and the widespread use of anti-personnel landmines;
the escalation of hostilities at
the end of September, coinciding with the imminent onset of winter.
2. In 1999, UNICEF carried out an analysis
of the situation of children and women in Afghanistan. It found
one out of every four children
dies before reaching his or her fifth birthday;
half of all Afghan children suffer
from chronic malnutrition;
50 Afghan woman die daily from
complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Afghanistan's
maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world;
while only a quarter of all men
are literate, only five per cent of women can read and write.
3. Before 11 September, the United Nations
estimated that 5.3 of the country's 22.7 million people would
need humanitarian assistance during the approaching winter. Children
and women are by far the most vulnerable segment of this at-risk
population. At least 1.7 million children and 1 million women
of child-bearing age remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
4. Over the summer, UNICEF Afghanistan was
finalising plans for an accelerated winter programme focused on
vulnerable children and women. These plans formed the basis for
expanded UNICEF humanitarian programmes included in the United
Nations Donor Alert launched by the Secretary General on 27 September.
They have since been adapted to reflect the rapid evolution and
deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
5. In a worst-case scenario, as many as
128,000 children will die in the coming six months, out of a population
of 7.5 million Afghans now estimated by the United Nations to
be affected by the crisis. This is almost three times as many
as the 47,000 children who would die in "normal"
circumstances. The worst case scenario assumes limited access
and a doubling of specific mortality attributable to measles,
diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections exacerbated by high
rates of malnutrition.
6. The number of deaths can be reduced if
security conditions permit the acceleration of relief delivery
in the coming month. In this case, UNICEF and partners will provide
a larger number of children with appropriate treatment, warm clothing,
blankets, measles vaccination, vitamin A, and supplementary food.
This combination of inputs would reduce mortality levels considerably.
7. It is therefore important that enough
resources be provided by donors not only for food and shelter,
but also for healthcare, nutrition, water supply, sanitation,
protection and education.
II. THE UNICEF
8. UNICEF's immediate goal is to provide
emergency assistance to ensure the survival of children in Afghanistan,
whether they are displaced or stranded in their own communities
during the winter. We aim specifically to prevent death from cold,
illness and malnutrition.
9. In light of the above, UNICEF plans to:
continue to position supplies
in every country that neighbours Afghanistan in case Afghans seek
refuge across national borders.
deliver as many relief supplies
inside Afghanistan as possible. Most people appear to be staying
in the country. And even if there are mass displacements, it will
be the most vulnerable that are likely to be left behind. It is
crucial to reach them with the basics they need to survive.
10. In the weeks following 11 September,
UNICEF prepositioned humanitarian assistance at forward bases
in countries neighbouring Afghanistan. On 6 October, the United
Kingdom Department for International Development provided an initial
contribution of £3 million. This, the first grant received
by UNICEF for the Afghanistan crisis, enabled the agency to purchase
supplies and equipment for airlifts and convoys and to strengthen
its logistics capacity in the Afghanistan sub-region with minimal
11. Existing long-term humanitarian capacity
building support from DFID's Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance
Department contributed to UNICEF's ability to deploy 32 out of
over 60 additional experienced emergency staff to regional operations.
UNICEF deployed teams on the ground in all five countries bordering
Afghanistan. UNICEF also procured communications equipment and
established forward logistics and warehousing capacity in collaboration
with WFP and other partners.
12. By 29 September, UNICEF began cross-border
surface convoys into Afghanistan and airlift operations to neighbouring
countries These convoys and airlifts have enabled UNICEF to position
or deliver supplies to be used for the following:
Survival activities, including:
Provision of winter supplies for
up to 525,000 children, all of whom will receive blankets; in
the north, central highlands and west of the country UNICEF will
also distribute winter clothing, plastic sheeting and tenting.
The protection of children from the threat of
malnutrition and illness, including:
Distribution of emergency health
kits to cover 2.4 million children and women (in close collaboration
with WHO and NGOs).
Vaccination services and National
Immunisation Days in close collaboration with WHO and NGOs; future
nation-wide mobilisation of volunteers for child immunisation
during National Immunisation Days will allow for outreach and
delivery of essential survival items such as blankets, child clothing
and family kits.
Therapeutic feeding for malnourished
children and cooperation with WFP in supplementary feeding programmes;
Provision of supplies and equipment
to ensure access to clean water for 1 million children and women
in communities and camps for the internally displaced. This includes
collapsible water containers, hand-pumps and purification materials
for families and water committees in camps for the internally
displaced, buckets, jerrycans and soap, as well as construction
13. UNICEF also aims to reinforce child
protection and create safe spaces for child care and learning.
Since schools and other learning spaces are essential activities
in restoring a sense of normalcy and dealing with trauma, UNICEF
plans to make education a high priority in all relief and reconstruction
14. Since the 29 September, 22 UNICEF airlifts
have delivered medical supplies, water purification tablets, therapeutic
food for malnourished children and other specialised relief and
shelter items from the UNICEF supply hub in Denmark.
15. UNICEF has also dispatched 44 convoys
into Afghanistan (see attached map).
UNICEF and other main agencies set up logistics and programme
coordination bases in Mashhad and Zahedan (Iran), Peshawar and
Quetta (Pakistan), Turkmenabad (Turkmenistan), Termez (Uzbekistan)
and Qurgonteppe (Tajikistan). In addition, UN agencies and NGOs
have initiated inter-agency coordination cells in the capitals
of all neighbouring countries. UNICEF relies primarily on commercial
trucking capacity. It is also procuring 10 heavy-duty trucks in
Uzbekistan. The agency is also negotiating with bilateral donors
for the use of air assets for airlifting supplies to primary logistics
bases along Afghanistan's borders.
16. 44 UNICEF national Afghan staff continue
to work inside Afghanistan. They meet convoys at the borders and
allocate relief supplies to local partners and NGOs for distribution
17. Two rounds of National Immunisation
Days have been organised. The first took place at the end of September,
when more than 5.2 million children were vaccinated against polio
and received a dose of Vitamin A. The second took place from 6
to 8 November. Parallel and synchronised immunisation campaigns
took place in Pakistan, where they also covered refugee children.
The coverage figures for the November exercise are not yet available,
but the operation appears to have taken place without any major
18. In the past five weeks, UNICEF has delivered
and distributed the following supplies
emergency health inputs (through
hospitals and health centres) to meet the needs of approximately
330,000 people for three months;
doses of vitamin A for five million
children over a period of six months;
plastic sheeting and tarpaulins for
over 50,000 internally displaced people (supplies for an additional
160,000 are pre-positioned);
food for therapeutic feeding of 13,000
severely malnourished children (pre-positioned);
high-energy biscuits and supplementary
food for some 22,000 moderately malnourished children;
approximately 73,000 blankets to
110,000 children (one blanket for two children). (A further 250,000
blankets donated by the U.S. Government are in the pipeline);
132,000 sweaters and jackets (a further
200,000 are in stock or in the pipeline);
over 100,000 ten-litre water containers
and water purification tablets (distributed or in stock in neighbouring
educational supplies and schoolbooks
in north-eastern Afghanistan.
19. Over 3.4 million doses of measles and
tetanus toxoid vaccine and basic supplies for vaccination are
in the pipeline for delivery to Afghanistan.
20. To cater for the possibility that large
numbers of people might be displaced, UNICEF is providing targeted
support to refugee populations and border-displaced groups in
Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan. UNICEF has initiated parallel programmes
for children and women affected by the drought in Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. We have also initiated social sector
recovery and rehabilitation planning activities with Afghan groups
within the country, in neighbouring countries and overseas.
21. As early as 17 September, the UNICEF
Executive Director appointed Mr Nigel Fisher, UNICEF Regional
Director for South Asia and former Director of UNICEF Emergency
Operations, as Special Representative for the Special Sub-Regional
Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries. Mr Fisher's
mandate is to ensure coherent and consistent UNICEF action in
assisting and protecting affected children and women and to ensure
coordinated advocacy on humanitarian access at all levels. This
is especially crucial since the sub-regional programme covers
six UNICEF country offices and three UNICEF regions. Mr Fisher
is also charged with ensuring good overall field coordination
and communication with partner agencies, in particular UNHCR,
WFP, OCHA, UNDP, The International Organization for Migration
(IOM) and the ICRC.
22. Regional representatives of these agencies
have constituted a Crisis Management Group. Under the leadership
of OCHA's Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, this group and the
UN Country Team are able to play a regional and strategic coordination
role. Operationally, UNICEF is working closely with WHO in health,
with WFP in nutrition, and with IOM and UNHCR in non-food items,
water and sanitation, education and child protection. In addition,
UNICEF is deploying senior nutritional experts, available through
emergency capacity-building support from DFID, to provide technical
support to NGOs such as Save the Children Fund, Concern, and Action
Contre la Faim, as well as to WFP and UNHCR.
V. THE MAJOR
23. These achievements show that it is possible
to deliver large-scale humanitarian assistance even under the
most hazardous conditions. However, there will be many
child deaths this winter. The challenge is to prevent as many
of them as possible. All humanitarian agencies are engaged in
a race against time to deliver supplies and assistance before
the onset of winter. The first snow has already fallen in the
mountains. The situation is growing more critical with each passing
24. The current volume of deliveries is
insufficient. The UN and other agencies are unable to deliver
enough relief assistance to meet humanitarian needs inside the
country. All agencies will have to scale up operations significantly
if they are going to be able to limit the number of child deaths.
25. The problems are multiple: in the absence
of international staff, Afghan staff face enormous challenges.
There are tight controls at the borders, road blockages, and uncertainty
caused by the ongoing conflict. The security situation constrains
our capacity to reach vulnerable groups rapidly, to monitor and
assess the situation, and to follow up on population movements.
26. A wide range of other factors will determine
the feasibility of expanding and accelerating relief operations.
UNICEF has strengthened its interaction and information exchange
with the Coalition Humanitarian Liaison Centre in Islamabad. It
is hoped that this will lead to:
increased assurance of safe passage
corridors for convoying;
improved liaison with coalition
partners on convoying, distribution planning and related security
integration of convoying operations
with WFP and IOM;
improved beneficiary identification,
strengthening of distribution networks and monitoring of delivery
of assistance to beneficiary populations;
expanded donor contributions of
air assets and other service packages (logistics, transport, warehousing).
27. The Donor Alert launched by the Secretary
General on 27 September included UNICEF's Afghanistan Sub-Regional
Programme, for which $36 million were required at the time. In
response, UNICEF has received contributions and firm pledges to
the value of $20.8 million. UNICEF has also received indications
that donors may provide an additional $13.4 million. If these
latter contributions materialise, UNICEF will have received only
$1.8 million less than its 27 September target. In other words
our component of the September donor alert will have been 95 per
28. Reference has already been made to DFID
contributions to UNICEF's Afghanistan programmes. These were especially
crucial since they were the first to be received by UNICEF. UNICEF
has recently submitted a request to DFID for additional funds
(£5.2 million) to meet the needs of 1.7 million children
and 1 million women of child-bearing age for one month. The United
Kingdom National Committee for UNICEF has also already mobilised
$1.1 million, with the possibility of at least an additional $1
million for UNICEF's Afghanistan programmes.
29. A new donor alert will be launched by
the United Nations on 27 November 2001. UNICEF will update and
increase its appeal totals with a view to securing funds to take
key survival programmes and activities to scale.
VII. ISSUES AND
30. Prior to September 11, much energy was
spent in safeguarding and countering the erosion of humanitarian
space in Afghanistan. Since then, the problems have become more
acute as military and other activities encroach on the space available
for humanitarian action. In its attempt to take key survival programmes
and activities to scale, and to protect and promote the interests
of children, UNICEF would like to stress the following:
31. UNICEF reiterates the UN Secretary General's
desire to see military operations end as soon as possible so that
humanitarian relief efforts can go forward at full speed.
32. UNICEF and other agencies working for
children cannot access all children in need in Afghanistan unless
all warring parties do all they can to facilitate convoys and
other means of access. UNICEF and partners seek to assure increased
access through improved beneficiary and distribution partner identification;
improved liaison and security planning with coalition partners,
and humanitarian corridors for the safe passage of humanitarian
33. Warring parties must recognise that,
in Afghanistan, there is no proper distinction between military
and civilian infrastructure. The destruction of roads, bridges
and telecommunications facilities is having a real and serious
impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Fear of bombings
is also hampering the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
34. Early in the crisis, the United Nations
evacuated all international staff from Afghanistan for security
reasons. The Taliban interdiction on electronic communication
from the offices of UN humanitarian agencies and their demand
for a significant reduction in the activities of those offices
seriously impeded UNICEF activities in Afghanistan.
35. The return of international staff of
the UN, NGOs and the ICRC to Afghanistan is an essential element
in the struggle to assure child survival this winter. In a situation
of conflict, the safety and security of humanitarian workers remain
paramount. Resources need to be allocated for the acquisition
of communications equipment and logistics capacity. Only when
these are in place will it be possible to reach more vulnerable
children and women and improve assessment, programming, distribution,
36. UNICEF aims to have international staff
back inside Afghanistan as soon as permitted by UNSECOORD, the
UN security office. The process for obtaining permission has proven
to be very lengthy. However, a UNICEF staff member was one of
three internationals on a mission to Badakshan in recent days
and widened security clearance is anticipated shortly. Interagency
missions involving international staff will include Termez-Hiraton-Mazar,
as well as Mashhad-Herat. The UN is also sending two exploratory
missions from Quetta and Peshawar to IDP camps near the border.
As soon as the situation permits, the number of staff, both national
and international, inside Afghanistan will be increased in these
and other areas.
37. Under-18 year olds have been used as
soldiers by all warring factions throughout 20 years of resistance
and civil war in Afghanistan. UNICEF is collecting data on such
abuses and will use these to challenge Taliban and Northern Alliance
38. We recommend that the Security Council
call on the Taliban and the Northern Alliance to stop immediately
the recruitment of child soldiers and their use in hostilities
and to facilitate their demobilisation and reintegration.
39. Those children who have been recruited
must be demobilised and returned to their families. Demobilisation
also demands the creation of special centres for former child
combatants, for their feeding and health care, and to develop
opportunities to learn and earn through livelihoods training.
40. Increased risk of landmine casualties
is certain to result from increased population movements as a
result of the current military offensive.
41. All parties to the conflict must be
urged to refrain from using landmines and cluster bombs which,
particularly when they fail to explode on impact, can cause horrendous
damage to children who pick up the brightly coloured devices thinking
that they are toys.
42. Extra resources must be made available
for mine awareness education and for support to survivors of mine
accidents. There is an urgent need to maintain support for mine
action programmes, particularly those directed at children, and
to initiate new mine awareness activities, particularly for the
Humanitarian Neutrality and Impartiality:
43. With regard to initiatives to devote
military personnel and assets to humanitarian operations within
Afghanistan, it will be important to take into consideration the
A humanitarian operation using military
assets must retain its civilian and impartial nature. The operation
must remain under the overall authority and control of the humanitarian
organisation responsible for the operation, whatever the specific
command arrangements for the military asset itself. To the extent
possible, the military asset should operate unarmed and be civilian
Discrimination against women and girls:
44. Meeting the survival and protection
needs of displaced and refugee women, adolescents and girls should
be central to the planning, implementation and monitoring of all
relief operations. Concrete steps should be taken to detect and
prevent sexual and other forms of violence against women. Women
should participate in the design and management of relief camps
and settlements. Coordination mechanisms for humanitarian intervention,
military operations, peace-keeping, and population displacements
should include advisers on the protection of women's and children's
rights. Education, particularly of girls, should be central platform
of both emergency relief and reconstruction.
45. The Taliban authorities have institutionalised
and legitimised discrimination against women to the fullest extent.
They use the control of women as a means of controlling the population
at large. The systematic and flagrant violations of women's rights
in Afghanistan must be stopped. Those in power must commit to
full respect of women's rights, including the right to freedom
of movement, expression, association, employment, health and education.
46. Even while conflict continues and the
delivery of humanitarian assistance remains the major operational
priority, thinking is beginning on national reconstruction processes.
UNICEF believes that social sector reconstruction, especially
at local level, can create hope among the population and help
create conditions for political settlement. Thus activities which
encourage employment and reconstruction, especially of schools,
have to take place while the delivery of humanitarian assistance
continues. UNICEF has held discussions with the wider Afghan community
at home and abroad to promote their ownership of, and participation
in, the process of developing future social governance infrastructures,
policies and institutions. It is also coordinating with other
agencies to operationalise these principles.
47. As planning for reconstruction proceeds:
every effort should be made to ensure
that the rights, protection and well-being of children and women
are fully and systematically taken into account in priority setting,
resource allocation, programme planning and national policy-making;
efforts must be made to consult with
all levels of Afghan society both inside and outside the country;
the United Nations system, the donor
community, and international non-governmental organisations will
need to provide more support to strengthen the capacities of national
institutions, local non-governmental organisations and civil society
organisations to ensure sustainability.
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
13 November 2001
1 Ev 84. Back