Eternally displaced: Afghanistan’s escalating crisis

Source: International Rescue Committee (IRC) - Thu, 13 Jul 2017 12:30 PM
Author: International Rescue Committee
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Afghanistan remains one of the most crisis-ridden, dangerous and violent countries in the world, as unstable political transitions and precarious security continue to take a heavy toll.

In 2016 the conflict - a continued battle for control between beleaguered Afghan forces and both ISIS and the Taliban - has led to unprecedented levels of displacement, with 1.5 million internally-displaced and 3 million refugees. Almost 1 million people, half of whom are children, have already returned from Iran and Pakistan. At least half a million more are expected to return this year, despite a starkly deteriorating economic, political and security situation within the country.

Most of those returning have lived outside of Afghanistan for decades, and will require urgent support from a beleaguered government – already under enormous strain – as well as international humanitarian actors. With a 40% unemployment rate, one-fourth of the population living in severe food insecurity, 9 million in humanitarian need across the country and in the midst of a losing fight against two insurgencies, the world is relocating its refugee problem to a country that stands no chance of ever solving it.

Meet some of the returning Afghans the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is assisting —both in Nangarhar province, where the majority of returnees from Pakistan are arriving, and urban areas like Kabul.

  • Undocumented refugee children in Nangarhar’s provincial capital, Jalalabad. Their family had lived in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the Soviet Invasion of 1979. Their father, Mohammad Younas, is worried, because he, like countless of his peers, is jobless. “I am wondering how to feed my family.”

  • Two-year-old Abu sleeps under a mosquito net during the heat of the day in a house in the eastern city of Jalalabad. The family had lived as undocumented refugees in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the Soviet Invasion of 1979, but returned to the country nine months ago after consistent pressure from Pakistani authorities.

  • A returnee family, who lived in Pakistan for the past 35 years, has settled on government land outside of Jalalabad. Their dream? “To have our own house here in Afghanistan.”

  • Cash grants, light blankets and water purification tablets are distributed by the IRC at the Directorate for Refugees and Repatriation in Jalalabad to Afghans recently returned from Pakistan.

  • Rahmat Shah (23), one of five sons of Sayed Akbar (70) who have settled in the city of Jalalabad in Afghanistan's east after being forced to leave Pakistan, where they'd lived since fleeing the Soviet Afghan war of the 1980s. Over a year ago, while still in Pakistan, Rahmat and his children suffered severe burns after a propane cylinder exploded in their home.

  • The children of Shakrullah (26, not pictured) and his extended family who have settled in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar, after continuing harassment and uncertain legal status forced them to leave their homes in a camp for Afghan refugees near Peshawar in Pakistan.

  • Young boys attend class at one of several small schools that were established as part of the IRC's community-based education program in eastern Kabul's Pul-i-Sheena area, for boys and girls recently returned from Pakistan.

  • Young girls attend class at a small school in Kabul’s Pul-i-Sheena area.

  • “I like to learn the alphabet,” says nine year old Farzana . When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she does not hesitate. “A teacher.” Forty five year old Amir Jan adds, “I hope my children will have a bright future.”

    The IRC has begun scaling up its response in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the form of emergency assistance. The support for the influx of vulnerable returnees and refugees includes: cash, child protection, including the creation of safe spaces for learning and play, shelter and non-food items like soap, water, and tents, emergency education in the form of community-based teaching, and supporting registration and official documentation processes.

    Photo Credit: Andrew Quilty / The International Refugee Committee

    To find out more about the IRC’s work click here:

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