Afghanistan IDP Figures Analysis

IDMC estimates that at least 948,000 people were internally displaced by conflict and violence as of July 2015.


The figure includes around 103,000 people newly displaced in the first six months of 2015, among them more than 36,600 people newly displaced in Kunduz province since April 2015. Significant new displacements have also taken place in Badakshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Faryab, Ghazni, Kapisa and Maydan Wardak provinces since June 2014 (UNHCR, Monthly IDP Update: June 2015, forthcoming).   

IDMC's estimate is based on figures provided by Afghanistan’s National IDP Task Force, led by UNHCR and the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) (UNHCR, Monthly IDP Update: June 2015, forthcoming).

The IDP Task Force figures tend to be underestimates, because they do not include all IDPs living in urban areas, who are often dispersed among economic migrants and the urban poor and so are difficult to identify. They also exclude IDPs in inaccessible areas across all regions. Nor is data available on former refugees unable to return to their places of origin with which to determine whether they should be considered IDPs.

Not all IDPs are profiled soon after their flight, because of the limited resources available and insecurity that prevents access. They may only be interviewed a couple of months after their displacement, once their areas of refuge become accessible to humanitarian responders. As such, the task force figures do not capture all of the new displacement that has taken place at the time they are published (UNHCR, 31 October 2014, p.3). Furthermore, needs assessment data tends to be collected at community, rather than household, level. Without data disaggregated at household level, however, it is difficult to inform humanitarian response plans. Finally, data collection tends to focus on areas of displacement, and more information on IDPs’ areas of origin is needed.

IDPs displaced for short periods may also not be taken into account. In some cases displacement only lasts a matter of days, though such movements have become less common than they were in the past. Nor do the figures capture onward movements, returns or secondary displacements, many of which are small-scale and spontaneous and so more difficult to track.

Displacement in Afghanistan is driven by armed conflict between the Afghan National Security Forces, supported until the end of 2014 by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and non-state armed groups (NSAGs), as well as NSAG activities. The latter include targeted killings, kidnappings and the use of improvised explosive devices. Inter-tribal and other community disputes also lead to internal displacement. In 2014, NSAGs increased their effective control over territory, particularly in rural areas of the eastern and southern regions. Insecurity in the country worsened as the mandate of the ISAF drew to an end, and the number of civilian deaths increased by 25 per cent compared to 2013 (UNAMA, February 2015, p.1). This environment has made access to IDPs more difficult. 

IDPs in Afghanistan take shelter with host communities or in informal settlements. 40 per cent of the country’s IDPs make up part of the urban poor in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar. They perceive urban areas as relatively safe and as providing better access to infrastructure, services and livelihoods. People who have experienced some form of migration, be they IDPs, returned refugees or economic migrants, make up the majority of the population in these cities (IDMC and NRC, February 2014, p.5;OCHA, 26 November 2014, p.10;Samuel Hall, November 2014, p.30).

Displacement triggered by natural hazard related disasters is tracked and recorded separately from that caused by conflict. More than 13,300 people were forced to flee their homes in 2014 as a result of disasters triggered by landslides, flash floods and avalanches in northern Badakhshan, Baghlan and Takhar provinces and central Bamyan province (IDMC disaster displacement database, as of 1 June 2015).

The International Organisation of Migration (IOM)’s data on displacement associated with disasters does not include those who flee within their villages or who take refuge with host families. They are usually counted as “disaster-affected” people rather than IDPs.

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.