NEW YORK (December 7, 2021) – UNICEF launched its largest ever single-country appeal today to urgently respond to the humanitarian needs of over 24 million people in Afghanistan, half of whom are children. UNICEF’s appeal for $2 billion will help to avert the imminent collapse of health, nutrition, WASH, education and other vital social services for children and families.

As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan, there are alarming disruptions in health and nutrition services, a disastrous food crisis, drought, outbreaks of measles, acute watery diarrhea, polio and other preventable diseases, as well as the crippling onset of winter.  

”The current humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is dire, especially for children. Winter has already set in and, without additional funding, UNICEF and partners will be unable to reach the children and families that need us the most,” said Alice Akunga, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative a.i. “As families struggle to put nutritious food on the table and health systems are further strained, millions of Afghan children are at risk of starvation and death. Others struggle to access water and sanitation, are cut off from their schools and at heightened risk of violence.  As the desperation of families and children increases, UNICEF is doing everything possible to save and protect children.” 

UNICEF estimates that 1 in 2 children under five will be acutely malnourished in 2022 due to the food crisis and poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. Outbreaks of life-threatening diseases continue, with over 60,000 cases of measles reported in 2021. An estimated 8 of 10 Afghans drink bacteriologically contaminated water. In addition, 10 million children are at risk of dropping out of school if teacher salaries are not paid and crippling poverty levels continue. Almost 4.5 million children are in need of mental health and psychosocial support.  With harsh winter conditions, where temperatures can reach as low as -12 degrees Celsius, families are struggling to heat their homes and keep their children warm.

Guided by humanitarian principles, UNICEF will prioritize life-saving interventions to treat children and provide other vital services. UNICEF’s response will help ensure continuity of essential services by preventing the collapse of systems that are critical for children, while also safeguarding hard-won gains, including protecting the rights of women and girls.

UNICEF plans to use the funds to scale up services to:

  • Treat 1 million children with severe acute malnutrition.
  • Vaccinate 10.5 million children against measles.
  • Provide safe water to 11.5 million people.
  • Ensure that 7.5 million children are accessing education.
  • Expand the use of humanitarian cash transfers to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable families and children.

“UNICEF is strongly urging donors to support Afghanistan’s children through its humanitarian appeal,” added Akunga. “We need to call to mind our common humanity and do everything it takes to keep children alive, well-fed, safe and learning. It won’t be easy but with the lives and wellbeing of so many children at stake, we must rise to the challenge. We appeal to the international community to stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, so that the children of Afghanistan can have the life and future that is their right.”

Thanks to the immediate support of donors to UNICEF’s 2021 appeal, UNICEF was able to provide life-saving services, including ready-to-use therapeutic food to nourish starving children; water trucking to the most in need communities; education supplies to children, including girls; and mobile health clinics to bring urgent medical care directly to vulnerable families and children in hard-to-reach areas are providing respite to those most in need.

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit

For more information please contact:

Erica Vogel, UNICEF USA, 212.922.2480, [email protected]

Lauren Davitt, UNICEF USA, 212.922.2503, [email protected]