The security situation across the country has remained relatively stable during the reporting period. UNHCR and its partners have largely been able to continue with operations in nearly all of Afghanistan’s provinces, undertaking ongoing activities and programmes in some two thirds of all districts.
Female humanitarian colleagues, however, have only been permitted to work in specific sectors in some provinces, largely in the areas of health and education. Female humanitarians are reportedly not currently permitted to work in several of Afghanistan's provinces. UNHCR continues to urge that women be able to work safely and unhindered across the humanitarian response and in all locations.
In the first week of September alone, UNHCR reached almost 9,000 persons with non-food items and some 8,000 people with hygiene kits, including in the provinces of Herat, Farah, Balkh, Jawzan, and Kabul. Distributions will continue in the coming period, which will be critically important ahead of the harsh winter season.
Since the start of the year, UNHCR has provided life-saving support to some 332,000 newly internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the country, with some 115,000 assisted from the start of August to 7 September.
In the reporting period, UNHCR, with the support of the Pakistani authorities, was able to bring a number of trucks into Afghanistan across the Pakistani border (see below). The trucks carried emergency shelter and other relief materials. UNHCR is working on other deliveries of assistance by land routes, including of essential relief items, such as blankets, shelter assistance, and cooking equipment.
UNHCR has continued with its protection monitoring in nearly all provinces to identify and respond to the most pressing protection needs on the ground, particularly of IDPs, as well as providing referrals to other services and assistance. In the reporting period, this included the monitoring of thousands of IDPs in Nangarhar province, which has helped to understand their needs and will inform humanitarian responses.
In addition to emergency assistance, UNHCR also continues its regular programmes in Afghanistan. Key investments are being made in areas such as health and education, including to support the sustainable reintegration of IDPs who previously returned to their areas of origin or may do so in the future. Construction is ongoing to establish 19 schools, youth learning centres and a women’s cafe, as well as nine health clinics, with mental health and psychosocial services.
UNHCR’s protection hotline and mailbox have had a significantly increased number of protection-related requests, receiving a total of 21,530 calls and queries between 1 August and 7 September 2021, an average of nearly 600 queries per day. The number of inquiries received in August (17,400) represents a 4,500% increase on July (371). UNHCR processes each query and either responds directly or provides referrals to appropriate services and/or critical assistance.
In just one example, UNHCR, working together with UNICEF and ICRC, has been able to intervene and reunite families where children had become separated from their parents amidst the evacuations. Many other queries relate to family reunification and orphaned children.
As well as urgent queries from within Afghanistan, UNHCR has received an increasing number of queries from Afghans currently living in other countries who are concerned about their potential deportation to Afghanistan. In the past week, UNHCR has seen an increase in protection-related queries from profiles including female students in universities, those working in the arts, and LGBTI persons.
Separate to this, UNHCR also recently launched the Afghanistan HELP website in mid-August. The site (which is available in Dari and Pashtu) has been visited more than 80,000 times by people seeking answers to critical questions on activities, assistance and referrals. Nearly 27,000 of these visits have been from within Afghanistan.
The interagency Flash Appeal in response to the current situation inside Afghanistan will be officially launched at a high-level meeting on Afghanistan, convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres on 13 September. Under the Appeal, UNHCR leads the Protection Cluster and co-leads the Emergency Shelter and Non-Food Items Cluster, which aim to reach 1.5 million and 900,000 people respectively by the end of the year. Activities under these sectors will be scaled up.