THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN
AND THE SURROUNDING REGION
5. Afghanistan has a population of 25.8 million (including
refugees and nomads not in the country).
Its borders, particularly in the south,
cut through traditional tribal areas and most of the ethnic groups
in Afghanistan have strong links with the neighbouring countries.
Despite these strong cross-border ties, people have a deeply-rooted
sense of Afghan identity.
6. It is a landlocked and mountainous country whose
location in the heart of Central Asia has given it a strategic
importance. It has suffered
chronic instability during much of its history. Ever since Genghis
Khan raged across the Shamoli Plain in the 13th century, foreign
powers have sought to control or influence its territory and people.
More recently, Afghanistan has been a battleground of foreign
powers. Jaya Graves of Southern Voices said that it was possible
to see how the current crisis had been created by a number of
external countries playing out cold war politics in the 1960s
7. However, the needs of the Afghan people have been
overlooked by the international community whose interventions
have typically been characterised by a dogged pursuit of self-interest
and a willingness to walk away just when Afghanistan needed help
the most. Much of the excellent work being done by international
aid agencies and NGOs was ignored and under-funded. Clare Short
told us "¼there
was deafening silence before September 11. We had a potential
humanitarian catastrophe of very large proportions before September
11 and the media, and most other people, were not in the least
Within the 2000 Consolidated Appeal the provision for basic services
like health, education and water received only 45 per cent of
the funding required; without funding for water provision, the
limited availability of drinking water has become a critical health
8. Afghanistan still faces a humanitarian crisis.
There is a food crisis for at least six million people.
Food will have to be brought into the country and distributed
to the vulnerable. WFP indicated that fourteen per cent of the
vulnerable population (about one million people) will be hard
to reach in the winter.
Sufficient stocks to last the winter will have to be stockpiled
in some areas. As those areas initially less affected by the drought
run out of food, the number of people in need of food aid will
continue to rise. In its memorandum, UNICEF said there will be
more child deaths this winter and the race is still on to deliver
as many supplies and as much assistance as possible before the
9. The situation on the ground in Afghanistan changes
constantly. Despite the collapse of the Taliban, there is still
little information coming out about the humanitarian crisis and
what Sakandar Ali told us in November still holds "¼where
there is no information coming out it does not mean that there
is no crisis inside the country. I think the crisis inside Afghanistan
should be at the top of our agenda".
6 It is ethnically diverse comprising 38% Pustuns,
25% Tajiks, 19% Hazaras, 6% Uzbeks, 6% Chahar Aimaks and 2.5%
Turkmen. Most are Sunni Muslims although Hazaras are Shia Muslims. Back
In 1893, the Durand line fixed the southern border of Afghanistan
with British India, splitting Afghan tribal areas, leaving half
of these Afghans in what is now Pakistan. Back
1 shows a map of Afghanistan. DFID included a detailed relief
map of Afghanistan in its memorandum. This is reproduced in Vol
II, Ev 118 Back
149, [Appendix 2] Back
10 Q194 Back
Consolidated Appeal, www.reliefweb.int/appeals/2001/afg/index.shtml Back
80, [Para 23] Back
15 Q130 Back