UNICEF has been in Afghanistan for over 65 years, helping to ensure children are healthy, educated and safe from harm.

Set within a striking landscape of dry desert and mountainous terrain, Afghanistan is an intriguing nation that dates back to 7,000 B.C. Rich in culture and tradition, the country’s tumultuous past is both complex and enduring. Today, Afghanistan continues to face many challenges, including ongoing conflict, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past decade, Afghanistan had made huge strides in children’s health and education, but as the political environment shifts, the situation changes daily with many children facing an uncertain future.

Thanks to our generous donors we’re ramping up relief work and bolstering our long-term development programs which focus on keeping mums and their babies healthy, provide access to clean and safe water, protect children from harm and deliver quality education. We are also there when emergencies strike, so that Afghanistan’s children and young people receive lifesaving support when they need it the most. 

Afghanistan Situation Update - 1 Year On with Sam Mort

An Afghanistan boy getting vaccinated© UNICEF/UNI309846// Frank Dejongh

Afghanistan’s many challenges

Sadly, Afghanistan is known for being of one of the most dangerous places to be a child. Conflict has been part of daily life for over two decades, meaning most children have never known peace. Many children face the impacts of trauma due to ongoing conflict, displacement and harmful social norms and practices, which can severely impact their psychosocial well-being and development.

Severe acute malnutrition is devastating children and families with one in 18 Afghan children failing to reach their first birthday and two in five children not reaching their full mental or physical development. Afghanistan also has one of the world’s highest rates of stunting in children under the age of five.

Additionally, Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio is still endemic (the other is neighbouring Pakistan). In some provinces, routine vaccination remains low due to myths, misinformed beliefs and rumours. Then there is the water crisis that’s gripping Afghanistan. There is a lack of safe drinking water, and children often have to walk long distances to collect water in heavy jerry cans.

8 out of 10

people in Afghanistan are drinking contaminated water.

3.7 m

children are out-of-school in Afghanistan with 60 per cent of them being girls.

46%

of children aged 12 to 23 months have not received their basic vaccines.

1 in 18

children dying before their first birthday due to malnutrition.

How we’re protecting the rights of children in Afghanistan

UNICEF has been in Afghanistan for over 65 years, working with local partners to provide medical care to displaced families, deliver emergency water and sanitation facilities, vaccinate babies against polio and other preventable diseases and treat children who are severely acutely malnourished.

Every year we’re reaching nearly 1.2 million children under one year with life-saving vaccines and 6 million pregnant women with vaccines that prevent diseases. We’ve increased the number of children in school, while finding alternative pathways to learning to increase education opportunities for the hardest-to-reach children. 

UNICEF is on the ground, working to break the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition by ensuring children who are severely malnourished receive timely treatment. We're also focusing on prevention, which includes improving breast feeding practices and diets of children to increase the variety of foods they eat. And when emergency strikes, we’re on the ground, helping to keep children safe from harm.

1.2 m

Every year UNICEF reaches nearly 1.2 million children under one year with life-saving vaccines and six million pregnant women with vaccines that prevent diseases.

15,000

In 2022, UNICEF has supported around 15,000 community-based classes: giving one million grade one students school bags and printing and distributing around 37 million school textbooks.

The power of water in Afghanistan

Afghanistan student reading a book© UNICEF/UN0626417/Bidel

Education for the girls of Afghanistan

On 23 March 2022, the authorities in Afghanistan announced that schools would not reopen for girls in grades 7-12. Across the country, girls were devastated as they were forced to remain home while their brothers and young sisters returned to school.

UNICEF is doing everything we can to support children’s education in Afghanistan. In 2022, UNICEF has supported around 15,000 community-based classes; giving one million grade 1 students school bags packed with pencils, pens and exercise books; and printing and distributing around 37 million school textbooks.

We are assisting with reopening schools that have been closed for many years due to insecurity and lack of funding, and we are supporting the selection and training of teachers, including payment of their salaries. Plus, we are providing teachers with learning and instructional materials as well as classroom activities.

In Afghanistan, we're making a difference in:

Help the children of Afghanistan

By donating today, you can help children like Nazdana to achieve her dream of one day becoming a journalist and an advocate for people in her community.

Afghanistan school student writing on a chalkboard
© UNICEF/UN0612270/Fazel