Afghanistan

UNHCR highlights urgent needs of forcibly displaced in Afghanistan as winter bites [EN/AR]

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A homeless man seeks warmth from a small fire on the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, as winter draws in. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for much more support amid acute and rising humanitarian needs for 3.5 million people displaced by conflict inside Afghanistan – including 700,000 who were displaced in 2021.

A lack of insulated shelters, warm clothes, insufficient fuel for heating, and inadequate amounts of food and medical supplies are just some of the deprivations that the forcibly displaced are facing in Afghanistan, as temperatures begin to plunge below freezing.

After more than 40 years of conflict, Afghanistan remains one of the most complex humanitarian situations in the world, with people on the move across the country following a series of climate-change related emergencies and natural disasters. Temperatures are expected to drop to -25⁰C, and many displaced families lack proper shelter – a primary requirement if they are to survive the bitter cold.

The humanitarian crisis is escalating daily in Afghanistan. Hunger in the country has reached truly unprecedented levels. Nearly 23 million people – that’s 55 per cent of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, and nearly 9 million of them are at risk of famine.

Supplying food to help avoid widespread starvation is another immediate priority.

This year, UNHCR has assisted some 700,000 displaced people across the country the majority since mid-August. The race is on to reach more. Currently we are able to reach nearly 60,000 people every week. Further resources are urgently needed for the most vulnerable – single mothers with no shelter or food for their children, older persons who have been displaced are left to take care of orphaned grandchildren, and those taking care of loved ones with special needs.

UNHCR has been bringing in relief supplies by road through Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries and through humanitarian airlifts. Five more flights carrying UNHCR winter supplies from its global stockpiles in Amman are scheduled next week.

UNHCR support will continue throughout the cold season until February 2022 to help forcibly displaced families cope with the extreme conditions. The response includes core relief items, such as thermal blankets and warm winter clothing. Shelters are being repaired and reinforced, while people are also being provided plastic sheeting and insulation materials to help weather-proof their shelters.

Vulnerable families are also being provided with cash assistance to meet additional needs during the coldest months, such as fuel for heating.

UNHCR has launched a global fundraising winter campaign to help ease the burden for forcibly displaced families amid the most life-threatening months of the year, in Afghanistan and other countries across the world.

UNHCR is grateful for the support that government and private donors have shown to our efforts to aid and protect vulnerable families, including a generous donation from UNHCR’s private sector partner Fast Retailing, contributing 1 million items of clothing and monetary support for people forced to flee during the winter months.

Further support is urgently needed for UNHCR to continue delivering lifesaving aid this winter as we head into the coldest weeks of the season. UNHCR’s funding needs for the Afghanistan Situation in 2022 – including continued winter response – amount to US$374.9 million.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Bangkok, Catherine Stubberfield, stubberf@unhcr.org, +66 65 929 8062
In Geneva, Babar Baloch, baloch@unhcr.org, +41 79 513 9549
In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, mahoney@unhcr.org, +1 347 443 7646