Afghanistan remains today one of the world’s most acute and complex humanitarian emergencies, after over 40 years of continued crisis driven by conflict and disasters and exacerbated by an economic meltdown. The numbers are overwhelming: 97% of Afghans could potentially plunge into poverty by mid-2022 and 24.4 million people, or 55% of the population, are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022, a staggering 30% increase from 2021.
More than 5.8 million people have been internally displaced by conflict and climate-related disasters since 2012. Due to their uprooting and significant displacement to urban areas, many Internally Displaced People (IDPs) struggle to meet their basic needs, tend to reside in poorly constructed shelters, and are confronted to important protection risks, including the presence of explosive devices which remains a top concern threatening the everyday lives of civilians. Recurring shocks and disruptions have depleted the resilience of the IDPs as well as the host communities, which has resulted in a dramatic increase of negative coping mechanisms, with particular impacts on the rights and wellbeing of children and adolescent girls (child labour, sale of children, early and forced marriage). IDPs and returnees are also confronted with specific challenges in accessing essential services, such as education and health.
Despite the generous contributions to the Humanitarian Response Plan and the Flash Appeal in 2021, the situation remains complex for millions of IDPs, returnees and other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan. Ongoing support is urgently needed to ensure that the most vulnerable people can be supported, and to avoid a further deterioration of the situation for those who were unable to flee the country in 2021.
- 10.9 million people are identified to be in need of shelter assistance, with slightly more than 70% of households reported living in a significantly or partially damaged, or fully destroyed shelter, due to previous conflicts having taken a severe toll in terms of damage to shelters. Considering the high cost of shelter repairs, and the already negative net income of households, reconstruction comes at a high cost that may not be affordable for most. Failure to address these issues would keep hundreds of vulnerable households in inadequate, unsecured and often overcrowded shelters, with severe implications for their health, protection, socio- economic situation and personal security - especially for children, the elderly, disabled people, women and girls.
- More than 2.5 million displaced Afghans are living in over 1,100 spontaneous informal sites and settlements that are self-settled locations with limited or no access to services and humanitarian assistance and inadequate shelters. Insecure accommodation arrangements trigger constant eviction threats or actual evictions, land grabbing and other housing, land, and property (HLP) related issues, leading to complex protection needs. Diverse risk groups live in these sites, including high number of women, children, the elderly, disabled people and persons with specific needs, whose living situation in the sites and settlements heightens exposure to various protection risks, including gender-based violence.
- Continued protection risks, reflecting decades of conflict and violence, are being exacerbated and further entrenched while accessible services and remedies are decreasing.16.2 million people are estimated to be in need of protection, given the severe human rights violations, such as unlawful detentions and extrajudicial killings, that continue to be reported. Restrictions on women and girls’ rights and freedoms are also increasing their risks of being confronted to gender-based violence.
- Millions of Afghans are confronted to climate-related disasters and winters are reported to become harsher. This means that winter assistance is increasing, but that the timely start of activities is crucial to ensure the life-saving activities can be planned and implemented.
- Ensure fast commitments and disbursements of funds for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, to allow operational actors, including local and national partners, to provide the needed assistance in a timely and efficient manner. Meaningful investments in local partners’ operation and capacity are critical.
- Meeting the most pressing needs of IDPs could contribute to avoiding secondary and/or multiple displacements, and ultimately drive the conditions for durable solutions.
- By providing repairs to damaged homes, underlying drivers of needs could be partially addressed. Adequate shelter provision also contributes to positive outcomes in other sectors, such as health, livelihoods and protection.
- Winterization activities could start on time and translate into saving lives – allowing families to withstand the winter season.
- Scaling up multi-dimensional protection programming, including on forced evictions, HLP issues1 and tenure documentation, is urgently needed given the breadth of protection risks.
- The deployment of mine action teams to previously restricted areas is critical to ensure that civilians returning can do so in a safe manner.
- Funds allocated for CCCM will enable partners to scale up urgently needed CCCM activities, to provide protection and a coordinated multi-sectoral response for displaced people residing in informal settlements and urban settings, as well as advocating for durable solutions.
- Area-based and mobile site management approaches will enhance access to basic services and protection for displaced populations, including high-risk groups.
- Site care and maintenance activities will improve the living conditions of displaced populations and minimise protection risks, especially for diverse women and girls (single women, adolescent girls, women and girls with disabilities, female headed households, older women etc…) with specific needs.
- Establishing community governance structures will enhance participation and representation of displaced communities, including women and other at-risk groups.
- IDP sites and informal settlements are a last resort for displaced populations, and CCCM partners and humanitarian actors should actively seek interim or durable solutions –including protection, risk-sensitive reintegration, resettlement, or returns assistance.
- Realising the centrality of protection is absolutely critical to ensuring an effective humanitarian response in Afghanistan.
- Alongside specialised and stand-alone protection services, integrated protection focused interventions must be systematically embedded across different areas of humanitarian action, from shelter programmes to site management initiatives.
Not only will such efforts support more impactful humanitarian efforts, better meeting the profound needs of communities, but they will also serve as a key conduit through which protection actors can continue programming across the nexus amidst a difficult operating environment.