Number of conflict-displaced Afghans doubles in 3 years
KABUL (Pajhwok): The number of Afghans who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country has dramatically doubled over the past three years, the Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
In a new report, the rights group said 1.2 million people were internally displaced in Afghanistan, a dramatic increase from 500,000 in 2013. Some 2.6 million Afghans are living beyond the country’s border.
Titled ‘My Children Will Die This Winter’: Afghanistan’s Broken Promise to the Displaced, the report highlights the country’s forgotten victims of war who have fled their homes but remain displaced within their homeland.
“While the world’s attention seems to have moved on from Afghanistan, we risk forgetting the plight of those left behind by the conflict,” said Champa Patel, South Asia director at Amnesty International.
Patel added: “Even after fleeing their homes to seek safety, increasing numbers of Afghans are languishing in appalling conditions in their own country, and fighting for their survival with no end in sight.”
Mastan, a 50-year-old woman living in a camp in Herat, was quoted as saying: “Even an animal would not live in this hut, but we have to. I would prefer to be in prison rather than in this place, at least in prison I would not have to worry about food and shelter.”
Amnesty International found that forced evictions – from both government and private actors – is a daily threat.On June 18, 2015, the first day of Ramadan, a group of armed men in military style threatened to bulldoze shelters at the Chaman-e-Babrak camp in Kabul.
An elderly man protested the attempted forced eviction, appealing to nearby police officers to halt the bulldozing. He was beaten by the armed men, triggering a demonstration.
Residents said police and the armed men opened fire on the IDPs, killing two people and injuring 10. One of the injured was a 12-year-old boy. No investigation was carried out and no one has been held to account.
A life on the brink of survival
Most IDP communities lack access to basic health care facilities. With only mobile clinics, operated by NGOs or the government, occasionally available, IDPs are often forced to seek private health care that they cannot afford.
“If we are ill, then I have to beg and find some money to go to the private clinics,” one 50-year-old woman in Herat said. “We have no other choice.” Most IDPs find themselves burdened with debt.
In one case, a man said he had to borrow 20,000 afs ($292) to pay for an operation for his son. “[This is] an enormous sum of money for us,” the father said.
The report blamed the Afghan government for failing to provide reliable accessibility to basic living necessities. People were forced to make longdaily trips to gather water and struggle to find one daily meal, it claimed.
“Food is a luxury here, no one can afford it,” said Raz Muhammad, a community leader in the Chaman-i-Barbak camp. “We mostly live off bread or spoiled vegetables from the market. The last time we received food assistance was ahead of last winter when we got three sacks of wheat.”
IDP children’s education has been interrupted and adults have been reduced to chronic unemployment.“IDPs should not suffer discrimination of any kind,” said Patel. “They should be provided with the same access to education and employment that other Afghans are.”
“The financial burdens on displaced families are compounded,” said Patel. “They have lost the traditional sources of their livelihoods, and only have few opportunities for informal work, creating circumstances where women are excluded, and children are being exploited and not educated.”
A failed promise
The 2014 policy spells out the rights of IDPs on paper and a concrete action plan for the Afghan government to implement it. But it has not lived up to its promise, showing little benefits for the displaced.
The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, charged with coordinating the policy’s implementation, is under-resourced and has been beset by corruption allegations for years, the report pointed out.
With other crises grabbing global attention and donor money, aid to Afghanistan is dwindling. The UN has asked for $393 in humanitarian funding for Afghanistan in 2016 –the smallest figure in years despite the dire humanitarian situation. By May, less than a quarter had been funded.
The Afghan authorities and the international community were asked to immediately ensure the most urgent needs of the displaced were met. The government was urged to make the implementation of the IDP Policy a priority, and ensure enough resources were dedicated across the government.
“All parties that have been involved in Afghanistan over the past 15 years have a responsibility to come together and make sure that the very people the international community set out to help are not abandoned to an even more precarious fate,” said Patel.
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