This report is produced by OCHA Afghanistan in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 13 to 29 January 2017. The next report will be issued on or around 12 February 2017.
So far in 2017, 5,844 undocumented Afghans have returned from Pakistan, more than half (9,335) the total figure which arrived in the first quarter of 2016. No registered refugees from Pakistan were recorded in the last seven weeks as the winter pause in the repatriation programme continues.
On 15 January, an inter-agency mission to Gamberi and Khairokahil districts in Laghman assessed the needs of 500-700 mixed returnee families reported to be living in informal settlements. Focus Group Discussions identified about 500 families in need of winterisation and emergency shelter support and found households dependent on casual labour work and limited livestock. WFP, UNICEF, DACAAR and IOM partners will provide winterisation and WASH support over the coming week. 21 informal settlements comprising between 15 and 500 mixed returnee families are now reported to have arisen across Khogyani, Kuz Kunar, Chaparhar, Surkhrod, Batikot, Rodat, Behsud, Qarghayi, Mehtarlam and Surobi districts in the Eastern Region following the onset of the returnee crisis in July last year. Of these settlements, Chamtala, Hesarshai camp, Barikaw, Surkhdewal, Adda Akhundzad and Daman have been assessed and assisted by humanitarian partners.
The DoPH planned assessment for Nangarhar Regional Hospital to determine the cause in a recent surge inpatient admissions has been postponed, although a technical team has been put in place to collect data on the pediatric caseload daily. To further augment the hospital capacity, WHO, UNICEF and HN-TPO provided medical and non-medical supplies. Health cluster partners have indicated that the increased caseload is seasonal and manageable at the current time.
Lack of identification and allocation of state land continues to hinder progress on durable solutions for returnees.
To date, only two sites have been officially identified; Khanakai Qasmabad in Nangarhar and Baba Sahib in Laghman. Khanakai Qasmabad has yet to be transferred from ARAZI to MoRR/MUDH due to administrative delays, while serious concerns remain about the Baba Sahib site due to high levels of mine and ERW contamination. The Housing Land and Property Task Force does not recommend Baba Sahib for land allocation until additional mapping and assessments have been carried out of other suitable state land within Mehtarlam and neighbouring districts in Laghman. Advocacy with the President’s Office is required to facilitate the transfer of the Khanakai Qasmabad land so that development of the site plan can commence.
The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was officially launched on 21 January at a high-level event chaired by the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Dr. Abdullah. The HRP, with overall requirements of US$550 million, includes US$240 million to provide life-saving support to as many as one million registered refugees and undocumented returnees anticipated to return from Pakistan in 2017.
Of these requirements, US$96 million is required for Multipurpose cash; US$64 million for Food Security and Agriculture; US$43 million for Protection; US$18 million for WASH; US$15 million for ESNFI; US$4 million for Health; and $US 2 million for Nutrition, to support the immediate humanitarian needs of registered refugees, and undocumented returnees.
In 2017, 5,844 undocumented Afghans have returned from Pakistan since 1 January, more than half (9,335) the total figure which arrived in the first quarter of 2016. From 1 March, the UNHCR refugee repatriation programme will resume from the winter pause which took effect in mid-December 2016. Whether a significant resurgence in the numbers of returns will be seen with the resumption of the repatriation programme and the start of the spring is hard to predict and will remain heavily influenced by the push factors experienced by Afghans within Pakistan.
In the event the high levels of returns seen in 2016 resume in the spring the humanitarian community is now better positioned to respond due to elevated funding levels from the Flash Appeal and a wider recognition of the needs which has allowed for expansion of services.
Once the repatriation programme resumes, UNHCR in accordance with its mandate, will continue to provide assistance in the form of a one off cash grant to all registered refugees. However the cash grant is likely to be reduced from the $400 value in place in the second half of 2016.
For IOM, WFP and other implementing humanitarian partners, whose programmes are not limited by specific mandates, the potential caseload in need of assistance is considerably larger and provision of blanket assistance to 100% of the returns is not possible. The programming approach therefore ensures assistance is prioritized to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
Adoption of vulnerability criteria to determine assistance is an approach used across agencies. OCHA is working with the ICCT to reach consensus on a standard set of vulnerability criteria to be implemented by all partners in assessing need. This would go some way to harmonize the eligibility for assistance and hopefully support the determination of assistance type, quantity and duration according to the severity of vulnerabilities identified.
Strengthening this needs based as opposed to status based approach to the provision of assistance would reinforce the impartial nature with which humanitarian assistance should be provided and ensure greater parity in assistance provided to refugees, undocumented returns, IDPs and host communities alike, reducing the potential for community divisions in the areas experiencing high returns.
Fair and accurate provision of assistance to the most in need continues to be challenged by the lack of comprehensive registration and documentation processes in place across the country. IOM and UN partners continue to advocate with government through the auspices of DiREC on policy blockages which prevent progress on registration related issues. Currently IOM is supporting MoRR/DoRR to roll out the Afghan Returnee Information System (ARIS), a central registration system so far rolled out in 12 provinces in 2016 and currently registering all refugees/undocumented returnees at the Torkham crossing. WFP is implementing its SCOPE corporate beneficiary registration and transfer management system, which is interoperable with the IOM ARIS and UNHCR registration systems and which can be used by multiple agencies and Government ministries to deliver, harmonized multisectoral emergency response, based on a common beneficiary database. Outstanding issues remain in terms of integrating registration systems and implementing formal data sharing agreements between the three agencies to counter fraud and duplication in registration.
An implementation action plan to accompany the Government Policy Framework for Returnees and IDPS has been drafted outlining objectives and required actions along with the responsible institutions and agencies to deliver 7 goals of the policy framework. Goal 1 (All new arrivals are registered and receive documentation) and Goal 2 (All returnees and IDPs are provided with immediate assistance) are pertinent to the first phase humanitarian response requirements with the majority of the plan focused on longer term integration including provision of land and housing, securing livelihoods and building social cohesion. The financial requirements associated with the humanitarian assistance component of the action plan are incorporated within the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/afghanistan/document/afghanistan-2017-humanitarianresponse-plan).
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.