The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it is concerned about the growing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) caused by conflict in Afghanistan, and the fact that it is often too dangerous to assist them.
Between June 2009 and September 2010, 120,000 people were forced out of their homes by armed conflict, increasing the number of IDPs to 319,000, it said.
“These figures do not include IDPs scattered in urban/semi-urban locations for which systematic accounting is problematic. These figures equally do not reflect IDP groups that have scattered across the inaccessible areas of the southern swathe of the country following recent armed offensives,” Nader Farhad, a UNHCR spokesman in Kabul, told IRIN.
In addition to conflict, some people are displaced by natural disasters (primarily floods), loss of livelihoods, and land disputes, aid workers say. The Ministry of Refugees and Returnees Affairs (MoRR) puts the total number of IDPs at nearly 500,000.
Most IDPs are in the insecure south and east of the country and many are not accessible by aid workers.
As winter approaches, UNHCR said it was planning to distribute warm clothes, charcoal and blankets to thousands of “extremely vulnerable” IDPs, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was working closely with UNHCR to assist IDPs.
“WFP has been distributing a three-month emergency food ration to over 43,000 recently displaced people,” WFP spokesman Challiss McDonough told IRIN, adding that the organization would provide special winter food assistance to 320,000 vulnerable individuals - not all of them IDPs - across the country.
The government is also moving to help IDPs: “We have submitted a request for US$5 million to the President’s Office which, if approved, will be used to respond to some of the basic needs of IDPs,” said the MoRR’s Islamuddin Joraat.
A growing number of IDPs are being drawn to Kabul’s expanding slums. A new MoRR survey said 2,398 families (over 14,000 individuals) were living in 16 slums in Kabul.
MoRR’s Joraat said the causes of their displacement were floods, conflict, lack of shelter and poverty.
UNHCR said there was “no noted IDP settlement in Kabul” but “mixed informal settlements dotting the city with mixed groups” and that it was working to identify “core protection issues related to IDPs among these mixed groups” in collaboration with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the MoRR. Kabul’s slums include IDPs, land-grabbers and nomads.
Flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses brought on by cold winter weather also disproportionately affect slum-dwellers living in cramped quarters.
IDPs in the east, south and central parts of the country are expected to face moderate and high-level food insecurity this winter, said a US-based Famine Early Warning System report on 1 November.
Over the next five months, WFP will feed 2.1 million food insecure people every month in Afghanistan, McDonough said.
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