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Afghanistan situation: Emergency preparedness and response in Iran, 8 November 2021

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS

682,891 people have been internally displaced in Afghanistan in 2021, of which 21% are women and 59% are children.

Afghans continue to make their way to Iran irregularly through unofficial borders. UNHCR is aware of 21,389 Afghans who arrived in Iran from 1 January until 05 November, though the numbers are understood to be much higher.

Official borders between Afghanistan and Iran remain closed for asylum seekers. UNHCR continues its advocacy with the Government to open borders and allow individuals in need of international protection to get it.

POLITICAL, SECURITY & HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

▪ The Afghanistan security situation remains of high concern, with people describing parts of the country as being in “total chaos”. Last week, the Deputy Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General,
Farhan Haq, reported ongoing violence resulting in casualties in Afghanistan: in Jalalabad, unverified pictures appeared online showing bodies swinging from a rope; residents also reported various targeted killings and video footage circulated of gunmen firing into a car, apparently killing its occupants, one of whom was identified by local journalists as a Taliban official. The Taliban have downplayed such incidents, saying that after decades of war, it will take time for the country to be completely pacified.

▪ The situation for women in Afghanistan remains worrying. On 6 November, the bodies of four women, including one of a women’s rights activist, were discovered in Balkh province in northern Afghanistan; the three other bodies have not yet been identified, the Balkh Information Department Director, Mawlavi Zabihullah Noorani, stated. Since mid-August, women have held regular, nationwide protests against the Taliban, demanding that their rights be restored and protected, and since September, several female activists have been reportedly detained and tortured by Taliban members. On 4 November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Taliban rules were prohibiting most women from operating as aid workers in the country. “Permitting women aid workers to do their jobs unfettered is not a matter of agencies or donors placing conditions on humanitarian assistance, but an operational necessity for delivering that assistance,” said Heather Barr, HRW’s associate women’s rights director.

▪ On 2 November, Waheedullah Hashimi, the Director of External Programmes and Aid at the Taliban’s Ministry of Education, announced that the de facto Afghan government will “soon” begin allowing older girls back into schools, while also urging the international community to help fund this. He added that “no women teachers had been laid off”, and that this was "a positive message to the world that we are working on a mechanism. We are not working on deleting them from our schools and universities”. On 5 November, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, announced that 10 out of the 14 girls-only schools run by the Maarif Foundation – a Turkish state-funded organisation which runs 80 schools overall in the country – have been reopened. According to Cavusoglu, he had held talks with the Taliban Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

▪ Health facilities in parts of Afghanistan have shut down and, in the capital, hospitals are functioning without electricity or water supply. More than 2,000 health facilities have been forced to close since the Taliban takeover, according to the Red Cross, and in those hospitals that are still accepting patients, most staff have not been paid their salaries for months and patients are forced to buy their own medication, a difficult prospect during an economic crisis. That said, according to the Taliban's Acting Public Health Minister, Dr Qalandar Ebad, the new government has agreed to launch a four-day polio vaccination programme.
Vaccination teams have been unable to work in parts of the country for much of the past three years, meaning that since 2018, an estimated 3.3 million children have missed out on a polio vaccination. It is estimated that 10 million Afghan children aged under five will be targeted by this programme, which appears to be aimed at showing the de facto authorities can cooperate with international agencies.