New Ministry of Refugees and Returnees (MoRR) figures from all 34 provinces indicate that 82,778 households (413,890 individuals) are currently internally displaced.
"Our numbers are renewed and based on assessments conducted all over the country," Noor Mohammad Haidari, a senior MoRR adviser, told IRIN.
UNHCR estimates of 275,000 people displaced within Afghanistan are based on the findings of a National IDP Task Force which included UN agencies, government bodies and NGOs.
Many IDPs belong to caseloads dating back to 1998-2002: These IDPs are mainly in camps and settlements in the south and west.
Over one million people were reportedly internally displaced in 2002 due to conflict, ethnic tensions and land disputes. Most IDPs have been assisted to return to their home areas in the past seven years but thousands still live in camps in Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces.
Violence and insecurity have increased rapidly across the country over the past few years and the numbers of civilian casualties of war have gone up markedly, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
UNHCR said finding a definite figure for the conflict-related IDPs was also difficult due to the temporary nature of their displacement. "As soon as the security situation improves [in a given area] people tend to go back to their places of origin," said Nader Farhad, UNHCR's spokesman in Kabul.
In addition to conflict, Afghans have been forced out of their homes by recurrent natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. Some returnees from Pakistan and Iran have also become IDPs due to landlessness and other socio-economic problems.
Ad hoc aid
The UN and the government ended the formal IDP aid programme in March 2006 and since then efforts have been made to encourage the remaining families to return to their homes.
Aid distributions to IDPs have continued on an ad hoc basis.
"Whilst we have no budget for assistance to IDPs we stress long-term and sustainable solutions," said MoRR's Haidari, adding that MoRR is unable to implement integration services for IDPs and requires resources and support from donors, aid agencies and other government bodies.
Meanwhile, one of the aid agencies involved in helping IDPs, the Norwegian Refugee Council, has said humanitarian funding should increase to meet the needs of all IDPs; warring parties must respect civilian protection in order to avoid fresh displacements; aid agencies should have access to IDPs all over the country; neutral aid must not be hindered; and more options for integration and/or return should be explored for IDPs by the government and aid organizations.