• Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis with an estimated one million people on the move by the end of the year.
It’s possible to avert this crisis: the Flash Appeal to support the thousands of vulnerable families returning from Pakistan outlines seven ways the humanitarian community will help
• IOM Afghanistan reports from Torkham border, noting that they project as many as 400,000 returnees may come back by 31 December.
• Photographer Jim Huylebroek says when he was recently on assignment in Nangarhar he saw Afghan children recently returned from Pakistan showing signs of malnourishment.
• UNHCR reports from their Kabul Encashment Centre, stating that in mid-2016, refugee returns to Afghanistan skyrocketed, with over 210,000 refugee returnees arriving as at early October.
HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLAN FUNDING
$339 million MYR revised request (US$)
$161.4 million received (US$)
FLASH APPEAL FUNDING
$152 million Request (US$)
$58.6 million committed (US$)
A Million Afghans on the Move: Seven Ways to Avert a Crisis
A recent surge of tens of thousands of Afghan families returning from Pakistan, spurred by increasing incidents of detention, forced evictions, police raids and harassment, signals a possible humanitarian crisis for Afghanistan in the coming months.
Since the beginning of the year, IOM and UNHCR recorded 182,669 undocumented Afghans and deportees and 207,236 refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan.
However, these numbers have dramatically accelerated since mid-July. For example, in the period 1-8 October, more than 50,000 refugee and undocumented returnees were recorded, suggesting the current totals could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Many families returning were forced to leave quickly, with little time to properly sell assets, and are often arriving with few possessions. Combined with the fact that many have lived in Pakistan for decades, and have few, if any, family connections left in Afghanistan, a large number need humanitarian assistance.
These returns join an ever-growing number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Afghanistan, with more than 286,381 Afghans forced to flee their homes due to conflict in 2016 alone. When added to the large volume of returns from Pakistan, OCHA projects that by the year-end, over one million people will be “on the move” inside Afghanistan and across borders.
These numbers far exceed projections for this year – and therefore outstrip the current resources of the humanitarian community to meet the increased needs. With winter fast approaching, and many returnee families indicating they intend to return to urban centres, such Kabul and Jalalabad, that already struggle to deliver basic services, acute humanitarian emergency needs are a real possibility.
Nevertheless, we can still avert a crisis. On 7 September, the humanitarian community launched a Flash Appeal for US$152 million to address the acute humanitarian needs of the unanticipated number of people “on the move” in Afghanistan until the end of 2016, outlining seven areas we can address the most immediate and urgent needs:
(1) Provide tents for families with no place to go, and support families being hosted or renting. Shelter provides families the first step to a safe and healthy environment, helps protect food stocks, and is a platform to recover and rebuild a future.
(2) Save lives through food assistance. Most returnee families have less than a week’s worth of food stocks, and food assistance, in addition to protecting livestock and assisting with basic agriculture will save lives, enhance income and reduce further migration.
(3) Strengthen existing health systems. Without support, an increase in communicable and non-communicable diseases is a strong possibility. Maternal, newborn and child health services and trauma care services are already stretched, and are now facing an increase in demand.
(4) Scale-up nutrition coverage and provide life-saving treatment to newborns and children with acute malnutrition. An additional 20,000 additional children and 2,500 pregnant and lactating women are expected to need treatment.
(5) Ensure individuals are adequately protected, particularly female-headed households and children. Lack of protection can lead to negative coping mechanisms, such as child labour, early marriage and child recruitment. This should include community-based assistance with civil documentation, temporary learning spaces, GBV prevention, mine/ERW risk education, surveillance and clearance.
(6) Provide essential water, sanitation and hygiene to ensure the health, wellbeing and dignity of the most vulnerable returnees, and avoid outbreaks of diarrhoea, typhoid, polio and other water-borne and contagious diseases.
(7) Ensure a dignified and efficient reception of returnees, including registration, profiling, support at the border as well as the provision of immediate assistance for the most vulnerable.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.