Thousands flee armed conflict in Kunduz

Report
from Norwegian Refugee Council
Published on 07 May 2017

“Hundreds of Afghan families are desperately fleeing armed conflict in Kunduz Province. Many are accommodated with extended families elsewhere, but some have had to sleep in the open,” said Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director in Afghanistan, Kate O'Rourke.

“Taliban fighters were shooting from one side of our house and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) from the other side. A rocket landed in my garden. My wife told me that if I didn’t flee, she would leave the house alone with our two daughters. We fled. We left everything behind. I’m afraid it will be looted,” Rahman Gerdi (29), a civilian from Aq-tapa, told NRC emergency response staff in Kunduz.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), also known as the Taliban, captured one of Kunduz Province’s seven districts, Qala-e Zal, on 6 May, and are launching attacks on ANSF checkpoints along the main road to Khanabad district. Civilians are fleeing from both locations. The intensity of armed conflict in northern Afghanistan has increased over the past week, following the announcement of the IEA's spring offensive on 28 April.

Abdul Karim (31) from Qala-e Zal, fled with his family to Kunduz City, where he is staying in a compound with four other families.

“Around 2.30 am Taliban fighters came to our houses and asked us to evacuate. They told us not to make any sound. We were all afraid,” he told NRC staff in Kunduz City on Saturday.

Preliminary reports from families who fled, local authorities, and aid groups indicate that thousands of people have been displaced.

“Around 180 families from my neighbourhood in Qala-e Zal have been displaced into Kunduz City. But those with no money, like widows, are in Qala-e Zal desert, as they couldn’t make it as far as the city. They are now living in the open,” said Abdul Karim.

A rapid humanitarian assessment is currently being undertaken in Kunduz, to identify immediate needs of families displaced by the recent fighting. NRC is ready to provide emergency shelter, water, food, sanitation and hygiene articles and other essential supplies.

“All armed actors must respect International Humanitarian Law, avoiding civilian casualties and allowing fleeing civilians safe passage. We request security assurances from all parties to the conflict for safe humanitarian access to respond to those in need,” said O’Rourke.

Facts:

• The security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan. Up to half of the country is no longer under Afghan government control. More than 600,000 Afghans were internally displaced due to conflict over 2016; taking the total number of IDPs in the country to more than 1.7 million. This year, IDP numbers are expected to rise further.

• Between 1 January and 20 April 2017, 75,000 Afghan girls, boys, women and men were displaced due to conflict—an average of 680 people per day. People fled from 27 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces; 115 out of its 399 districts.

• On Friday 28 April, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) issued their annual spring offensive announcement.

• Kunduz Province was captured by the IEA in September and October 2015 and in October 2016, resulting in mass displacement on both occasions. Afghan and international security forces responded. On 3 October 2015, during the campaign to recapture Kunduz City, the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz was attacked by international military aircraft, killing 42 people.

• Kunduz Province is one of the main destinations of registered Afghan refugees who have reportedly felt forced to return from Pakistan in high numbers since mid-2016.

• In total, over 2016, NRC directly assisted 300,000 displaced persons in Afghanistan, through programming, which includes legal assistance, shelter, and education in emergencies. NRC maintains ten offices across Afghanistan, including in Kunduz. From the Kunduz office, NRC directly implements humanitarian shelter, legal protection, and education in emergencies programming, as well as maintaining an emergency response capacity.

• NRC is a leading partner of the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM) in Afghanistan, a partnership of seven international, humanitarian NGOs, which provide rapid, emergency assistance to women, boys, girls, and men displaced by conflict or affected by natural disasters. NRC is grateful to the European Commission’s humanitarian financing of the ERM.

Note to editors:

Further information on internal, conflict-induced displacement in Afghanistan: https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/afghanistan/idps

For further information on NRC Afghanistan: https://www.nrc.no/countries/asia/afghanistan/

If you would like interviews or more information, please contact:

• NRC Country Director (Afghanistan), Kate O'Rourke kate.orourke@nrc.no Cell: +93 787 29 1781

• NRC Head of Programme (Afghanistan), William Carter: william.carter@nrc.no Cell: +93 795 271 621

• NRC’s media hotline: +4790562329 or info@nrc.no