“Since we came there is no assistance or anything; the family has not eaten anything for the past two days….We are displaced and have lost all our livelihoods,” Zarin, a 70-year old displaced woman originally from Marjah in Helmand province. Kabul alone houses some 35,000 displaced persons.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans fleeing the conflict in southern Afghanistan are condemned to subsist in urban slums risking starvation and hypothermia. At least 40 people have died from the cold, most of them children, in displacement camps across the country during this year's bitter winter.
As conflict and insecurity have intensified, numbers of displaced Afghans have reached a record half a million.
Displaced Afghans fleeing conflict reach the relative safety of cities only to face other serious problems. With little resources, families construct makeshift dwellings from mud, poles, plywood, plastic sheeting and cardboard, which offer little protection from the weather. Thousands of men, women, and children face the further misery of poor access to food, fuel, water, sanitation, health services and education.
Displaced families told Amnesty International that they could only provide their children with one meal each day at most. Children in slum communities may be refused school attendance if they cannot produce a national identification card, a document which the authorities say can only be obtained in their home province.
“We don’t know where all the international aid is going…we don't know why the government isn't able to provide us with basic shelter,” said Yahya, a man living in Kabul’s Chaman-e-Babrak slum area.
Many government officials deny that internal displacement is a problem or describe displaced persons as "economic migrants". Furthermore, humanitarian organizations are constrained by a de facto government policy to discourage assistance that suggests a degree of permanence for the settlements – meaning that permission is often denied for the construction of latrines and water pumps.
To add to their woes, displaced families are under constant threat of forced eviction. In some cases, families have had to scramble to move their belongings before bulldozers level their shelters.
To support the rights of the displaced, urge the Afghan government to:
- Work with its donor partners to ensure that internally displaced persons and returning refugees receive emergency humanitarian aid without delay to provide for their immediate needs, including housing, food, water and healthcare;
- Enable internally displaced persons and returning refugees to obtain identification cards throughout the country so that they can exercise their legal rights;
- Enact and enforce a clear prohibition on forced evictions;
- And monitor and assess the impact of their military operations on displacement and take all measures to minimise displacement in their areas of operation.