Although much has been done to better understand the profiles and needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan1, in 2013, at a time of growing forced internal displacement and of upcoming political and military transition, key questions remain. With internal displacement being one of the key humanitarian priorities in Afghanistan, and with numbers exceeding half a million individuals displaced from their homes, the question is whether stakeholders have envisaged all available options of assistance. This is particularly true of the case of urban settings, home to growing numbers of IDPs living in informal settlements. Donors express scepticism on continued humanitarian interventions in these urban settings, and the overall political stance on internal displacement and informal settlements prevents structural interventions to alleviate protection needs with IDPs living, often illegally and informally, on government or private-owned land. However, with the development of the first National IDP Policy, it may well be the time for stakeholders to think constructively about breaking the cycle of poverty and indebtedness of IDPs living in the Kabul Informal Settlements (KIS) and to ask:
What types of interventions are the most appropriate, relevant and effective, in an urban context where displaced households live in informal settlements, without deeds to their land or shelter, often squatting private or government land? What opportunities exist, if any, for cash-based assistance to respond to the needs of internally displaced populations (IDPs) living in the Kabul Informal Settlements?
With these questions in mind and with an expanding livelihoods programme, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) commissioned Samuel Hall Consulting to undertake a research study and review of the relevance and applicability of cash-based programming options in the KIS. As media reports from the winter 2012 have illustrated, illness and death among the elderly and children were common occurrences in the harsh winter conditions. As a result, the humanitarian community – along with the Government of Afghanistan – have stepped up coordination efforts to ensure increased emergency assistance capacity to cope in the winter. DRC and Samuel Hall researchers have focused this research on identifying the risks and protection issues for a cash approach, and assessing the viability of a cash approach for IDPs living in the KIS.
A total of 310 respondents were interviewed in 8 KIS sites relevant to DRC’s programming. The intention was not to have a representative sample of IDPs in all KIS, but to collect such information that is relevant to DRC’s work. The sampling was limited to 8 sites where DRC is currently active and comparison between camps is made there where data was available. In each site, an average of 40 households was surveyed randomly (except for 30 households covered in the last location), comprising a total of 72 female respondents (23% of respondents) and 238 male respondents (77%).
The study was conducted during the winter months of 2012, a time of the year when IDPs in the KIS are exposed to higher protection risks. One of the salient features of this research is the structural importance of seasonality, highlighting the importance of having specific frameworks of assistance during the winter period, as developed in the recommendations section of this report.