Afghanistan: Comprehensive response urgently required as displacement crisis worsens
An Afghan man stands in front of tents home to IDPs in Bagrami district of Kabul. Many families came here from Tagab in Kapisa Province, Central Afghanistan, following increased insecurity over the past two years. (Photo: NRC/Farzana Wahidy, June 2012)
- Country Statistics
- Latest IDP figure:
- At least 493,000 conflict displaced (31 January 2013)
- Number of refugees:
- (Originating from the country)
2.7 million (UNHCR, as of December 2012)
- Total Population:
- 33.4 million (UNFPA, 2012)
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31 December 2012
With the drawdown of international military forces well underway, displacement continued to increase in 2012. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) and UNHCR put the total number of IDPs at nearly 500,000, of whom at least 100,400 were newly displaced during the year. Official figures are widely recognised to under-represent the scale of displacement as they exclude IDPs in inaccessible rural locations and urban areas. Afghanistan has experienced numerous waves of displacement since the 1970s, caused by decades of war and insecurity, natural disasters, chronic poverty and widespread human rights abuses. Following a period of relative calm after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, conflict-related displacement has more than doubled since 2008. IDPs are highly mobile, often forced into secondary or tertiary displacement or onward migration.
Armed conflict pitting the Afghan security forces and international troops against the Taliban and other armed opposition groups was the primary cause of displacement in 2012. Civilians fled from military operations, and increasingly from attacks, intimidation and other serious abuses by armed opposition groups. General insecurity, land disputes and tribal conflict were also significant factors. An estimated 75,000 IDPs have been living in displacement since before 2003.
The National IDP Task Force, which is co-chaired by MoRR and UNHCR, collates and analyses data on displacement. It found that roughly 75 per cent of IDPs were displaced in the south, east and west of the country, with many concentrated in the provinces of Herat, Nangahar, Helmand and Kandahar. In the north, displacement has increased more than five-fold since 2010, reflecting the spread of conflict across the country.
The dynamics of displacement varied significantly across the country, between urban and rural areas and within provinces. IDPs were found to be living with relatives, in camp-like settings and dispersed in host communities. Increasing numbers fled to cities and settled alongside the urban poor in informal settlements, making it harder to identify and assist them. A growing number of urban IDPs live illegally on private or state land, in substandard accommodation and at risk of eviction.
Most IDPs continue to live in extremely vulnerable situations. Many face a range of physical threats, and struggle to meet basic needs such as food, water and shelter. Half of the IDPs surveyed for a NRC/IDMC study said they spent 90 per cent of their income on food and went into debt, driven in part by larger than average households and lower income as a result of unemployment.
Female-headed households have even fewer livelihood opportunities and are particularly vulnerable. Children, who make up an estimated 64 per cent of the IDPs, are less likely to attend school and face an increased risk of child labour and forced marriage.
According to the NRC/IDMC study, less than 25 per cent of IDPs wished to return to their places of origin, even if security improved. Prospects for sustained return to rural areas are limited by insecurity, lack of employment and access to land and basic services. Urban IDPs have sought to integrate locally, but authorities have not supported them in their efforts. With few prospects for durable solutions, protracted displacement is a growing concern.
Despite increased awareness of IDPs’ plight, national and international efforts to assist them remained limited. MoRR and its provincial departments led the government’s response, but this was hindered by an unclear mandate, weak capacity and a shortage of funds. There was also a lack of coordination across different government ministries. The government announced its decision to develop a comprehensive national policy on IDPs during 2012, and as of the end of the year MoRR was in the drafting process with international support. This represents a key step forward in the protection of IDPs.
Humanitarian assistance was coordinated through the cluster system and by the National IDP Task Force and its regional offices, which were established in 2008. The humanitarian community prioritised emergency food and non-food items and winter assistance for the newly displaced and some urban IDPs. The response was hampered, however, by a lack of reliable and timely data, restricted access and a steep decline in funding during the year. Better cooperation between humanitarian and development organisations is required to meet longer term needs.
Efforts to improve coordination, promote principled humanitarian action, boost winter preparedness and improve systems for monitoring IDPs helped to address some of these concerns, but major gaps in assistance and protection remain.
In an open letter published on 19 October 2012, IDMC joined 29 Afghan and international NGOs to call on the Afghan government, UN and donors to launch an immediate winter assistance campaign to prevent a repeat of last year’s winter crisis in which at least 100 IDPs died from cold or illness in Kabul alone.
The open letter welcomes the recent commitment of the Afghan government to ensure protection and assistance for Afghanistan’s growing IDP population through the development of a national IDP Policy. While this is an important step forward for the displaced, effective contingency planning and preparedness are still urgently required to save IDP lives this winter.
As winter approaches again, the open letter highlights how many IDPs across Afghanistan still live in inadequate shelter, without access to emergency assistance. Their most urgent needs are food, water and heating facilities, with children and the elderly facing particular risk as the cold weather approaches.
As conflict and insecurity continue, the displacement crisis in Afghanistan is growing. According to UNHCR, the number of displaced Afghans has reached over 430,000. In reality, however, this figure is likely to be far higher.
For more information, visit IDMC’s Afghanistan page
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Afghanistan: Comprehensive response urgently required as displacement crisis worsens
As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by 2014, more than half a million Afghans are estimated to be internally displaced. The on-going transfer of security responsibility from NATO to Afghan security forces has not been accompanied by a transition to stability. In 2012, internal displacement continued to rise significantly against a backdrop of continuing armed conflict, high civilian casualties, increased abuses by non-state armed groups and pervasive conflict-related violence. Over 100,000 Afghans were newly displaced by conflict and a further 32,000 by natural disasters in 2012. There are numerous challenges in accurately profiling the displaced. The actual number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is undoubtedly far higher.(...)
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Download the overview
Challenges of IDP Protection: Research study on the protection of internally displaced persons in Afghanistan (November 2012)
Publication Date: November 2012
The Inter-Agency Section Committee (IASC) defines protection as “all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Human Rights law, the International Humanitarian Law and the Refugee law” National authorities have the primary responsibility for providing full protection to populations displaced within their borders. Yet, when states lack the capacities to effectively protect these populations, international organisations have the responsibility to support them. Such is the case in Afghanistan where the Afghan authorities are currently unable to guarantee the basic necessities of life or other rights of IDPs. Analysts agree that the current level of protection provided to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan is insufficient. Operational challenges partially explain the current gap in analysis and response to the protection needs of IDPs.
Download executive study here
Download full report here
||Afghanistan: Comprehensive response urgently required as displacement crisis worsens (25 March 2013) HTML | PDF
Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","General"
"Population Figures and Profile","General"
"Patterns of Displacement","General"
"Physical Security & Freedom of Movement","General"
"Property, Livelihoods, Education and Other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights","General"
"Family Life, Participation, Access to Justice and Other Civil and Political Rights","General"
"Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age, Gender, Diversity)","General"
"Durable Solutions (Return, Local Integration, Settlement Elsewhere in the Country)","General"
"National and International Responses","General"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Challenges of IDP Protection: Research study on the protection of internally displaced persons in Afghanistan, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 29 November 2012
- Afghanistan consults on an IDP policy, Forced Migration Review (FMR), August 2012
- Developing a Policy on Internal Displacement in Afghanistan: A National Consultative Workshop, Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR), 15 July 2012
- Conflict- Induced Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan Interpretation of Data as of 31 May 2012, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Afghanistan (UNHCR), July 2012
- Research Study on IDPs in Urban Settings – Afghanistan, World Bank/United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (WB/UNHCR), May 2011
- Realizing National Responsibility for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan: A Review of Relevant Laws, Policies, and Practices, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement and The Norwegian Refugee Council, November 2010
- Beyond the Blanket: Towards More Effective Protection for Intern ally Displaced Persons in Southern Afghanistan, Brookings Institute / The Liaison Office, May 2010
- National Profile of Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 14 December 2008
- Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) - Refugees, Returnees & IDPs Summary Sector Strategy 2008-2013, Government of Afghanistan, 14 January 2008