667,903 people have been internally displaced in Afghanistan in 2021.
Afghan asylum-seekers continue to make their way to Iran. UNHCR is aware of 22, 086 Afghans who newly arrived in Iran from 1 January until 12 November, though the numbers are likely to be much higher. Different government officials have unofficially stated that the number of new arrivals may range between 100,000-300,000.
Official borders between Afghanistan and Iran remain closed for asylum seekers. UNHCR continues to advocate with the government to open borders and allow individuals in need of international protection to get it.
POLITICAL, SECURITY & HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The security situation in Afghanistan continues to be extremely alarming. On 13 November, an explosion hit a vehicle in Kabul resulting in the death of one person and the injury of several others. The explosion occurred in Dasht-e Barchi, a Kabul suburb that is dominated by the Shia Hazara community. The Afghan Journalists Centre stated that the person killed in the blast was a well-known Afghan journalist. One witness reported that the explosion occurred near a checkpoint manned by the Taliban, and that gunfire exchange was heard immediately afterwards. On 12 November, another explosion hit a mosque in the Spin Ghar area of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan (202 km east of Kabul), killing at least three persons and wounding 15 others. No group has claimed responsibility of either attacks.
The dire humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan are deeply affecting women and girls in the country. UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, expressed concern on reports that child marriage in Afghanistan is on the rise. “We have received credible reports of families offering daughters as young as 20 days old up for future marriage in return for a dowry.” Even before the latest instability, UNICEF’s partners in Afghanistan had registered 183 child marriages and 10 cases of selling of children over 2018 and 2019, in Herat and Baghdis provinces alone. The extremely dire economic situation is pushing more families deeper into poverty and forcing them to make desperate choices. UNICEF stated that it will work with religious leaders to ensure that they are not involved in the “Nikah” (the marriage contract) for young girls, and further urged the de facto authorities to prioritize the reopening of schools for all secondary school girls and allow all-female teachers to resume their jobs without any further delays.
Last week, OCHA reported that more than 3,000 families (approximately 22,260 people) were identified to receive winter support in Kandahar, Hilmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces in southern Afghanistan. Cash assistance was also distributed to 1,358 vulnerable people in Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces in need of support for the upcoming harsh winter season. In north-eastern Afghanistan, a total of 8,855 vulnerable people including internally displaced returnees received cash assistance in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar provinces. An additional 95,067 vulnerable people received food assistance as part of WFP’s seasonal assistance programme in Baghlan, Badakhshan, and Takhar provinces.
The UN has observed tentative improvements for female aid workers resuming access to work in Afghanistan. The new interim Ministry of Interior in the country had provided letters to UN national and international staff (both males and females) indicating that security, access at check points, and freedom of movement are to be guaranteed at all times and in all locations across the country. Security and guard forces and officials are instructed to comply. UNHCR has requested all female staff to report for duty and the Protection Cluster has resumed all protection activities at the field level.
On 10 November, the Resident Representative for UNDP in Afghanistan, Abdallah Al-Dardari, stated that the country is “facing the worst humanitarian disaster” ever witnessed, adding that 97% of the 38 million population are at risk of sinking into poverty. On 8 November, WFP also reported that almost 24 million people in Afghanistan, or 60% of the population, suffer from acute hunger. An estimated 3.2 million children under age 5 are also expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.
The United States (US) and Qatar signed an accord on Friday for Qatar to represent the US diplomatic interests in Afghanistan, an important signal of potential future direct engagement between Washington and the Taliban after two decades of war. The agreement will come into effect on 31 December. The US, European countries and others have been reluctant to formally recognize the de facto Taliban authorities, but with winter approaching, many realize they need to engage more to prevent the deeply impoverished country from plunging into a humanitarian catastrophe.