The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned over a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan due to ongoing violence in the country.
An estimated 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January 2021 – primarily due to insecurity and violence – bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million.
UNHCR reported that the families forced to flee their homes in recent weeks cite the worsening security situation as the predominant reason for their flight.
In addition to ongoing fighting, displaced civilians have told UNHCR and partners of incidents of extortion by non-state armed groups and the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on major roads.
Many have reported interruptions to social services and a loss of income due to rising insecurity.
The number of civilian casualties has risen 29 percent during the first quarter of this year compared to 2020, according to UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNHCR says. An increasing proportion of women and children were among those targeted.
The needs of those who have had to flee suddenly are acute. UNHCR and partners, as part of a coordinated response, are assisting newly displaced Afghans with emergency shelter, food, health, water and sanitation support and cash assistance, despite challenges in accessing vulnerable groups.
UNHCR says that the resilience of the Afghan people has been pushed to the limit by prolonged conflict, high levels of displacement, the impact of COVID-19, recurrent natural disasters, including drought, and deepening poverty. Some 65 per cent of the Afghan population – in and outside of Afghanistan – are children and young people.
A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement within the country, as well as to neighbouring countries and beyond, the UN organization says.
Iran and Pakistan host nearly 90 percent of displaced Afghans - more than two million registered Afghan refugees in total, according to the UNHCR.
Both countries have granted access to territory and protection to Afghan refugees, along with health and educational services through national systems. Their hospitality and inclusive policies, spanning decades and generations, must not be taken for granted, it says.
UNHCR urges the international community to step up support to the Afghan government and people of Afghanistan and its neighbours at this critical moment, in a spirit of solidarity and burden-sharing.
UNHCR’s financial appeal for the Afghanistan situation (including operations for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran) remains acutely underfunded, at only 43 percent of a total US$ 337 million required.
This comes as the Afghan government and the United Nations have assessed that Afghanistan needs $953 million for humanitarian assistance and $200 million to $250 million for development programs.
The assessment, called “Joint Humanitarian Appeal,” says that over 18 million people in Afghanistan are in need of humanitarian assistance due to conflicts, coronavirus and drought.
The United Nations and the Ministry of Finance asked international donors to provide the assistance.