31 December 2013 |

Afghanistan: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013


The number of IDPs in Afghanistan continued to rise significantly in 2013, against a backdrop of armed conflict, pervasive violence and abuses by non-state armed groups. Inter-ethnic disputes and local conflicts over land and water were also contributing factors.

The number of people newly displaced by armed conflict increased from 100,000 in 2012 to 124,000 in 2013. Almost half of the displacement in 2013 took place in the southern province of Helmand, where 53,000 people fled their homes. The total number of people displaced by conflict stood at 631,000 at the end of the year. The figure does not include IDPs in inaccessible locations and some informal settlements.

The ongoing transition of security responsibilities from international to Afghan forces has not been accompanied by improved stability. The number of civilian deaths and injuries documented in 2013 was at its highest since 2001. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported a 14 per cent rise in civilian casualties compared with 2012, with the highest number of fatalities among women and children since 2009 attributed to an increase in clashes and unexploded ordnances.

Conflict caused displacement in southern, eastern and western Afghanistan, with most IDPs fleeing homes in Helmand, Kunduz, Badghis, Nangarhar and Ghor provinces. Protracted displacement is a growing concern, with more than 310,000 people displaced since at least 2011.

In the absence of comprehensive and disaggregated data, information available suggests that 65 per cent of IDPs are under 18, a similar proportion to the general population. There are almost equal numbers of male and female IDPs. Displacement dynamics varied significantly across the country during 2013. Some IDPs took refuge with relatives, while others were dispersed in host communities where they built or rented their own homes, or squatted government or private land. Increasing numbers sought the relative safety of towns and cities.

More than 75 per cent of IDPs surveyed in 2012 expressed the wish to integrate locally in their places of refuge. The newly adopted national policy on IDPs recognises local integration and settlement elsewhere as potential solutions to displacement, but authorities at all levels continue to link assistance and solutions to return, and only provide help to IDPs who go back to their places of origin.

IDPs were unable to exercise even their basic rights to food, water, adequate housing, health and education during 2013, and a chronic shortage of work left many struggling to survive on incomes well below the national average.

The national response remains inadequate, and is hampered by a lack of political will, weak local governance, the activities of non-state armed groups and ongoing armed conflict and hostilities.

The adoption in November of the national policy on IDPs was a welcome development. Key provisions include the prevention of displacement and a more coordinated response across government. The policy clearly defines for the first time who qualifies as an IDP, and sets out the government’s responsibility to provide protection, assistance and durable solutions. Implementation, however, has yet to take place. Future challenges include ongoing conflict, and elections scheduled for April 2014 that will disrupt the initial timetable for drafting implementation plans.

The international response was coordinated through the cluster system and the national task force on IDPs via its regional offices. Help was prioritised by ranking provinces according to IDPs’ documented needs and their exposure to conflict and other hazards, with an emphasis on life-saving assistance. The response was hampered by a lack of access and reliable data. The Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) for Afghanistan in 2013 was the best funded worldwide, but challenges in terms of financial oversight and transparency have also hindered humanitarian work. The development sector needs to engage more fully to meet IDPs’ longer-term needs.