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AFGHANISTAN: An additional 1.5 million children need help to survive in 2020, warns Save the Children

The number of children in Afghanistan who will need humanitarian assistance in 2020 has jumped by 40 percent compared to last year
19 February 2020
  • A quarter of Afghanistan’s population – 9.4m people – will require humanitarian assistance this year. More than half of those in need are children.

  • 18 years of conflict has turned Afghanistan into one of the most dangerous places in the world where every single child has known only war.

  • Girls and boys experience conflict differently and face different kinds of risks. This must be reflected in humanitarian interventions to protect them better from harm. 

The number of children in Afghanistan who will need humanitarian assistance in 2020 has jumped by 40 percent compared to last year, warns Save the Children[i], meaning an extra 1.5 million children need support to survive.

In 2020, an additional 3.1 million people will need help, more than half of whom are children. That takes the total number of children who need some kind of humanitarian support to 5.26 million[ii],  making Afghanistan one of the worst places in the world to be a child.

Moreover, girls and boys experience conflict differently. In this year’s ‘Stop The War On Children’ report which was launched last week, Save the Children found that girls in conflict-affected areas are at far higher risk of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, including child, early and forced marriage. In all verified cases of sexual violence against children in conflict, girls are the victims nine times out of 10. Boys are much more likely to be exposed to killing and maiming, abductions and recruitment into armed groups.  

Security across Afghanistan has deteriorated over the past two years, with record numbers of children killed and maimed. According to the UN, children made up an  astonishing 77 percent of civilian casualties from explosive weapons in the first nine months of 2019. This daily deadly risk has a deep impact on the mental health of children, as they witness acts of extreme violence and face traumatic and life-changing injuries. Today in Afghanistan, 1 in 10 people lives with a physical disability.  

A recent analysis[iii] by Save the Children found that two-thirds of parents surveyed in parts of Afghanistan said their children are scared of explosions, kidnappings or other forms of extreme violence on their journeys to school, revealing the extent to which children are living in constant fear for their lives and lack support to help overcome their distressing experiences. 
Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said:

“Australia has long had close ties with Afghanistan, which is an important strategic partner. Within the last decade, bilateral aid has been cut by more than 50 percent. For many Afghan children this has meant being unable to go to school, denied access to medical care or not having enough food to eat.

“In 2020 we are expecting that a staggering 1.5m additional Afghan children and more than 3 million additional Afghans in total, will require humanitarian assistance just to survive. In this time of incredible need, Australia ought to step up its support for Afghanistan. Not only is it in Australia’s national interest, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Onno van Manen, Afghanistan Country Director, Save the Children, said:

“Afghanistan remains largely forgotten in the shadow of other global emergencies after more than 18 years of conflict, tens of thousands of civilian deaths and multiple failed peace efforts. This is a country where all children who were born and raised here have known nothing but war, where they are scared to go to school and where they risk abuse and exploitation. Afghan children lack access to basic healthcare and quality education, not to mention the professional support they need to help them cope with all they have endured.

“Save the Children is stepping up its activities throughout Afghanistan in recognition of the dire situation children are facing. They have a right to safety, security and well-being under international law, yet these fundamental rights are regularly threatened. We must give Afghan children a future free from violence and fear.”


For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.


  • In 2019, Save the Children reached over four million individuals in Afghanistan, including over 900,000 children, through programmes in education, health, nutrition, food security, child rights and child protection. 

  • Save the Children has field offices in eight provinces and humanitarian activities in 14 (out of 34) provinces in Afghanistan. 

  • Save the Children in Afghanistan has a funding target of $25m in 2020, of which $11.5m has been secured, leaving a funding shortfall of $13.5m.

  • Click here for the 2018-2021 UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan.

  • Join our campaign to Stop The War On Children. 

[i] According to the latest UN assessment, 9.4m people will require humanitarian assistance in 2020, up from 6.3m in 2019. That’s an increase of 3.1m. Nearly half (47.8 percent) of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 15 which means that of the additional 3.1m in need in 2020, 1.48m are children under 15. 
[ii] The UN estimates that 56 percent of people in need in Afghanistan in 2020 are children under 18. This means that of the 9.4m people in need in 2020, 5.26m are children. 
[iii] The research was undertaken over a two-week-long period in April 2019 in selected districts of Kabul, Balkh, Faryab and Sar-e-Pul provinces, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative tools. The qualitative research involved 30 interviews with key informants (6 females; 24 males) including relevant government officials at national and sub-national levels and national and international development partners. In addition, eight Focus Group Discussions – two per province – were held with children in the surveyed communities. The quantitative data was collected through a household survey, involving structured face-to-face interviews with 600 parents (50 percent female) and 90 children, 50 percent of whom were girls. The mean age for girls who participated in focus group discussions was 11 and for boys it was ten. 

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