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2020 | CIVIC - Unacknowledged Harm: Hurdles to Receiving Victims’ Assistance in Afghanistan

Violence in Afghanistan has taken the lives of thousands of civilians and left families grieving across the country. This policy brief evaluates the current status of various victims’ assistance mechanisms from an Afghan applicant’s perspective to understand the challenges that civilians face in accessing these programs. It also looks at the progress made by the Afghanistan government, the US and the international community in addressing previously identified challenges.? 

Since 2004, the Afghan government has enacted two victims’ assistance programmes, which provide families of civilians killed in the conflict or victims of war-related injuries and disabilities with some financial assistance. The first consists of a one-time payment through budget Code 91 or Code 92, and the second of monthly financial assistance through the State Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled Affairs (SMMDA). Based on a comparison of IDLG statistics and UNAMA reports, it is estimated that over half of the civilian victims in Afghanistan do not receive or apply for assistance under Code 91/92. Furthermore, according to the SMMDA, out of the three million people with disabilities in Afghanistan, only one million are registered with the ministry. CIVIC notes that, although the government has taken steps to improve the assistance programmes, some key challenges persist: long bureaucratic processes, payment delays, inadequate assistance, accessibility obstacles, corruption and fear of retaliation from opposing groups. Additionally, it considers that women who apply for assistance face additional obstacles such as social barriers, low levels of literacy, lack of female employees in the provincial offices to support female applicants, and bureaucratic hurdles to receive court approval to be considered the heir to their husband or son. 

Complementing the Afghan payment programmes, the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have adopted payment policies to provide assistance to Afghans who were incidentally killed, injured, or whose property was damaged during military operations. Moreover, a USAID-funded program called the Conflict Mitigation Assistance for Civilians (COMAC) provides direct non-monetary assistance to civilians harmed during the conflict in the form of in-kind goods, medical and psychosocial assistance, and training. Unfortunately, the report shows that many civilians still have little understanding of the US payments procedures and don’t know where or how to apply for assistance. Besides, even though COMAC is more accessible to Afghan victims than the Afghan government and US military’s condolence payment programme, bureaucratic and admissibility requirements create obstacles for civilians in rural areas that wish to apply for COMAC.