1. Home
  2. Asia
  3. Afghanistan

Some 2,000 displaced by fighting in Helmand

Many displaced families have set up tents and mud huts in the desert to get away from the conflict.
(Masoud Popalzai/IRIN)

About 2,000 people, mostly women and children, have left their homes in several parts of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, fleeing heavy fighting between Taliban insurgents and NATO-led forces.

"We left our home and immovable property in Ghezak [a village in Gherishk District of Helmand Province] because of growing armed conflicts," Mohammad Qasim, a displaced father of five, told IRIN in Gherishk.

Another family in Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province, said they had left their village in Sangeen District after their house was destroyed in the fighting.

"I also lost my younger brother and my four-year-old daughter in the fighting," Abdul Samad, father of the displaced family of seven, said.

Assadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand, said some families had been displaced by the clashes, but did not specify their numbers.

More on violence in Afghanistan
 Civilians complain about impact of fighting on their lives
 Civilian deaths condemned
 Girls fear to go to school after shooting incident

 UN says rule of law a top priority

 Food aid trucks come under increasing attacks

 UN to track civilian casualties more closely

 UNAMA facing new humanitarian challenges

 UN to step up staff security after recent killing

Also, US forces in Afghanistan have confirmed the displacement of civilians from at least one location in the province.

"I watched hundreds of civilians walk out of the city unopposed," a US soldier who was part of a military operation against the insurgents in Nahr-e-Saraj District, was quoted as saying in a US military press release on 2 July.

Many displaced families have set up tents and mud huts in an arid desert in Gherishk District, to the north of Lashkargah - an area long affected by drought. Others have sought refuge in Lashkargah.

Advised to evacuate

Maj John Thomas, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told IRIN that prior to a military operation international forces advised non-combatants, through local shuras (councils), to temporarily leave the area in order to avoid civilian casualties.

However, international forces operating under NATO in Afghanistan "will work to ensure that a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), the government or ISAF are aware of the [humanitarian] needs" that arise after their military engagements, Thomas told IRIN in Kabul on 9 July.

The Afghan authorities, backed by international forces, blame Taliban insurgents for intentional attacks on civilians and for using them as human shields in their hit-and-run assaults.

"We have heard of civilians being threatened or coerced [by insurgents] to stay in an area they would like to flee from when there is a battle," said Thomas.

However, some internally displaced persons (IDPs) say they abandoned their villages either after intense aerial bombing, or because insurgents terrorised and oppressed them.

One displaced man, Ezatullah, said many people in Barakzai village of Gherishk District left the area after NATO planes bombed their homes.

In a statement on 27 June, ISAF - which has been mandated by the UN Security Council to assist the government of Afghanistan in establishing peace and stability in the war-torn country - tacitly, acknowledged that civilians had been harmed in its 21 June air strikes on the village.

"The senior ISAF commander [in Helmand] and the mayor of Gherishk met on 23 June to discuss the death of civilians in an air strike on 21 June and how to avoid civilian casualties in the future," said the statement.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.

This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.