Afghanistan Humanitarian Bulletin Issue 79 | 1 October – 31 December 2018
More people in Afghanistan need humanitarian/protection help in 2019 compared with December 2017.
Top 2019 HRP priorities include restoring livelihoods and rehabilitating trauma victims back into society.
This year, there will also be an emphasis on rolling back food insecurity and on mitigating risky, negative coping mechanisms.
Acute food insecurity has risen by 30% in just five years – potentially affecting 13m people in Afghanistan over 2018.
IDP families living in informal settlements report that they earn on average 20% less than other IDP households. They also frequently don’t have the tazkeras (national ID).
Conflict and drought are leading to increased needs in 2019
The recently published Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) acknowledge that both conflict and drought have been negative disrupters to life in Afghanistan, and are significant drivers (though not the only ones), of the current scenarios being enacted in the country. Today there are 6.3 million people in need of humanitarian and protection support.
According to the latest HRP (which is seeking US$612m in funding), the first nine months of 2018 saw a 46 per cent increase in the number of civilian casualties from suicide attacks; a 39 per cent increase in the number of civilian casualties from airstrikes; and a 153 per cent increase in the number of aid workers killed and injured compared to the same period in 2017. Health partners report that 85,477 trauma-related consultations took place between January and September 2018. Amputations and disabilities are becoming a prevalent concern, with humanitarian partners providing most of the care services.
Meanwhile, the 2018 drought has affected more than two-thirds of Afghans. It has reduced incomes by half, caused serious health issues and prompted negative coping mechanisms. About 13.5 million Afghans face significant (crisis) levels of food insecurity (six million more than last year) while 3.6 million of those people are at an emergency level of food insecurity. In addition, contingencies should be put in place to cope with a potentially destructive El Nino, especially in the north.
Thinking longer term
“We will return only if we get help to start our lives anew, assistance to re-start farming and animals. As is now, we cannot go back. Maybe our houses are still there, but we’ve lost our animals who died because of drought and lack of fodder. We cannot do any farming as we lost the previous harvest and had no seeds to plant" says Mohammad Shaqi, a middle-aged IDP in the Zaimaty settlement in the outskirts of Qala-e-Naw town, capital of Badghis province.
The Zaimaty settlement is located on the slopes of hills that surround Qala-e-Naw town.
Around 1,750 IDP families (an estimated 12,250 people) are sheltering in hundreds of tents that dot the area. IDPs started arriving there from rural parts of Badghis from MayJune 2018 following the worst drought in decades. Some families were previously sheltering in Farestan riverbed, an area prone to flooding. To mitigate the risk of floods, the IDPs were relocated to the Zaimaty area and received tents, water and sanitation assistance as well as food from the World Food Programme (WFP) distributed by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Return is the best solution for drought IDPS – Governor of Badghis
The ongoing full-scale drought response by WFP and partners reached nearly 2.3 million people in drought-affected provinces across the country from October to end of December 2018 - almost one-quarter of them in Badghis province. In total, more than 11,000 metric tons of food were distributed for nearly half a million people in rural areas of Badghis, and in the informal sites in and around the provincial capital Qala-e-Naw.
Distributions are ongoing, and new families arriving in Qala-e-Naw forced to leave their villages and fields continue to be registered by WFP and partners. They receive the same rations as all other families: these consist of wheat flour, vegetable oil and pulses.
Dr. Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai, the Governor of Badghis province, told a visiting UN delegation on 17 December that while the authorities had been supporting the drought-affected people and IDPs with available resources, ultimately there need to be durable solutions. "For many IDPs in Qala-e-Naw city, the best solution will be the return to their villages of origin so that they can rebuild their lives, livelihoods and prevent the potential ruin of their houses by a natural disaster. We will support them if they voluntarily decide to go back,” he said.
He continued: "We need to start planning now regarding how to support those people keen to return, well ahead of the agricultural season.”
Drought isn’t the only problem say IDPs
“We cannot return to our village, we’ve lost everything because of drought, and fighting and insecurity made it even worse. Even if the drought is over, we cannot go back as the fighting is still there and we are worried about our families,” said Shah Mohammad, an IDP in his late twenties.
“No, no, we will not go back until the security situation gets better and it is safe for us to return. Who will protect us back home if (non-state) armed groups come over and start demanding things and, even worse, when they start demanding our daughters as wives for their fighters?” concurs another IDP.
Debt is another obstacle to returning. “Many of us have debts of over 100,000 Afghanis [about USD$1,333]. How can we pay such a huge money back? Some families are so desperate that they have to give their daughters as wives to the people they owe to settle their debts. This is how bad it is” points out an IDP in his late 40s.
The Governor stated that for those who cannot go back, the authorities will continue providing support until return becomes possible, or other durable solutions are found. “The immediate challenge for this group of people is land. The land and sites that they currently live in are almost entirely privately owned. The Government does not have land in and around Qala-e-Naw city. It is manageable for the time being. However, it may pose a challenge later on” he said.
Ian Ridley, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and leading the visiting UN delegation, assured the Governor that UN’s humanitarian agencies will continue supporting government efforts to provide humanitarian assistance for drought-affected people, including IDPs. "We realise that there are enormous needs and especially during this time as the winter season is on” he noted.
The next stage
UNHCR’s Mais Al Suradi, in charge of planning the Shahrak Sabz site for IDPs in the outskirts of Hirat, says that there needs to be a medium and long-term action plan in accordance with the National IDP Policy of the Government. “We are currently providing humanitarian assistance and emergency shelter, but we need to start thinking about the strategy of how to support them in the longer term…There needs to be close cooperation between humanitarian and development partners” she said.
Protection and communications with the affected communities also need to be escalated says Yanna Thay, head of OCHA’s sub-office in Hirat. “While we are all immersed and busy with the response, racing against the clock as winter sets in, we need to ensure the mainstreaming of protection, and that IDPs are consulted and informed.”
“We need to have a clear plan as soon as possible. The winter will be over in less than three months and we need to be ready for the next stage.”