Is there anything worse than war for a population? Yes, noting that the conflict is becoming entrenched and the humanitarian situation worsens. This is what Afghans have been perceiving in the last five or six years, and the UN has verified when evaluating humanitarian needs for 2020. Beyond the fighting that puts their lives at risk, years of successive conflicts have left them unable to cope with crises and with little hope of recovery if current conditions persist. Hence, the only dream of young people is to emigrate.
“The humanitarian consequences of the crisis affect every aspect of life in all corners of the country,” summarizes the report on Afghanistan by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Coordination. As a result of its new assessment, the UN estimates that a quarter of the nearly 38 million Afghans will need humanitarian aid in 2020. Two-thirds are under the age of 25, so they did not know about the Taliban regime (or were too young for remember it). They have grown between the hope of a better life and the disappointment because it does not finish arriving.
Hunger and malnutrition are a daily reality for 40% of the population. Aggravated by the latest drought, the UN estimates that 14.28 million Afghans will be food insecure in the first months of the year. The deterioration of living conditions is especially serious among the millions of families displaced by the conflict and who lack a roof and health services. A third of the population does not have access to a health center less than two hours from home. And 3.7 million children are out of school.
Not a single one of the 34 provinces is spared, but the problems are more serious in rural areas than in urban areas, where although few, there are some services and jobs. With the end of the Taliban regime in 2001, the return of Afghan refugees in neighboring countries was expected. Five million did so, but lack of opportunity and violence continue to drive them out. According to data from the International Organization for Migration, 2.3 million have left since 2012.
Most of them have chosen neighboring countries (63% Iran and 22% Pakistan); only 12% went to Europe (including Turkey). Even so in the European Union, Afghans have become this year the largest group of those arriving illegally, outnumbering Syrians. The 16,861 Afghans accounted for by Frontex, the EU’s border agency, account for 19.2% of the total number of migrants and double that of 2018. However, this increase is mainly a consequence of the US sanctions against Iran, where Afghan refugees are under increasing pressure to leave.
Even the news about the victims of attacks and military operations does not reflect the gravity of the Afghan tragedy. After the numbers of dead and wounded, there are families destroyed and lives devastated by mutilations that limit personal independence and the possibility of working. The UN estimates that 4 million Afghans live with physical disabilities. Of the mental problems that generate tension from fighting or the loss of family and friends in violent acts, there are not even reliable statistics.
Furthermore, insecurity breeds with the most vulnerable. Women and girls are victims of deep-rooted male violence. Forced marriages, begging and child labor are frequent.
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