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Afghanistan: Forced to flee

30 Apr 2019


The drought has forced thousands of people to move from rural areas in Badghis and Ghor provinces to Hirat City, where they were forced to live in informal settlements. Here, they live with poor host community families and have to rely on humanitarian aid to survive. Credit: OCHA/Philippe Kropf

Last year, over 250,000 people have been displaced by drought across the Western Region. The number had spiked to 275,000, but when humanitarian partners started emergency food distributions, some 28,000 people have gradually returned to their villages in Muqur district of Badghis.

Badghis province in the western region of Afghanistan was severely affected by the drought between April and May 2018. Many families lost all they possessed as they were forced to sell their livestock and all their possessions just to be able to buy essentials such as food and medicine.

For those coming from villages highly dependent on farming, returning home was not an option. They wouldn’t be able to plant as much as they used to, because they couldn’t afford to buy the seeds or hire laborers.

Abdul Alim was displaced from the Kundulan area and found shelter for himself and his family under a tent in the Jar-e-Khoshk IDP site in Qala-e-Naw. “I cultivated 50 Man [400 kg] of wheat last year, but the drought caused the crops to fail”, the 45-year-old man told us. “I have lost my livestock too. I had to sell my sheep at a very low price. A sheep costs AFN 7,000 – 10,000. I sold mine for AFN 1,000. I had to. I needed food and medicine for my family. I came here to Qala-e-Naw as a last resort to get help”.

Credit: OCHA/Philippe Kropf

Abdul and his family received food, cash assistance and a tent from humanitarian partners. And they now have access to drinking water and health services thanks to water trucking and mobile health teams at the site. Although he had to miss the winter and spring planting seasons (October – December/February – March), he is now trying to cultivate melons as they are cheaper to plant, and they can be sold at affordable prices. His dream is to be able one day to go back home with his family.

Severe underfunding

Mobile health teams conduct malnutrition screening as part of the services they provide to IDP families. Credit: Medair

The drought is only one of the factors driving displacement in Afghanistan. In Badghis, for instance, lack of livelihoods and poor infrastructure often force people to flee in search of food, water and basic services. And yet, nearly 12 per cent of the 4,800 families surveyed recently said they would consider returning to their places of origin in Badghis, if only the conditions allowed them to. This is why the humanitarian response to the drought focused on scaling up assistance in areas of origin - to bring people much needed food, clean water and health services so they could have the choice not to leave their homes.

Last year, the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) and Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated US$34.6 million in emergency aid to support 2.2 million people in dire need of assistance. The funds were critical to distribute food and seeds, maintain primary health services, provide emergency shelter, safe drinking water, improve hygiene and sanitation, treat severe malnutrition, and help farmers protect their livestock.

This year, funding remains at critically low levels. To date, the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) remains only 17 per cent funded. Without adequate funding humanitarian partners won’t be able to sustain their life-saving activities.

The Plight of Internal Displacement

Tens of millions of people around the world have been driven out of their homes by war, hunger, earthquakes and other perils. Among the most vulnerable, are 40 million people who have been forced to flee, but never crossed a border. Lacking special protection in their darkest hour of need, these largely unnoticed women, men and children may have fled their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They often urgently need essential necessities such as shelter, food and clean water, while stripped of their rights and basic protections.

To draw the world’s attention to the Plight of World’s 40 Million Internally Displaced People, OCHA has launched an innovative YouTube campaign, ‘Unavailable Content’, in collaboration with Ogilvy. The campaign is at the heart of OCHA’s Invisible Citizens Week, which is dedicated to shining a spotlight on this resilient yet vulnerable group of people.