The number of Afghans who have fled violence and remained trapped in theirown country – where they live on the brink of survival – has dramatically doubledover the past three years, a new report by Amnesty International highlights.
A staggering 1.2 million people are internally displaced in Afghanistan today, adramatic increase from some 500,000 in 2013. Afghans already form one of theworld’s largest refugee populations, with an estimated 2.6 million Afghancitizens living beyond the country’s border.
Amnesty International’s new report, ‘My Children Will Die This Winter’:Afghanistan’s Broken Promise to the Displaced,casts fresh light on the country’sforgotten victims of war who have fled their homes but remain displaced withinthe country’s borders.
“While the world’s attention seems to have moved on from Afghanistan, we riskforgetting the plight of those left behind by the conflict,” said Champa Patel,South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
“Even after fleeing their homes to seek safety, increasing numbers of Afghans arelanguishing in appalling conditions in their own country, and fighting for theirsurvival with no end in sight.”
Amnesty International’s research found that despite the promises made bysuccessive Afghan governments, internally displaced people (IDPs) in Afghanistancontinue to lack adequate shelter, food, water, health care, and opportunities topursue education and employment.
“Even an animal would not live in this hut, but we have to,” Mastan, a 50-year-oldwoman living in a camp in Herat, told Amnesty International. “I would preferto be in prison rather than in this place, at least in prison I would not have toworry about food and shelter.”
Their situation has dramatically worsened over the past years, with less aid andessentials like food available.
A new National IDP Policy launched in 2014 could be a lifeline to those displacedbut has hardly been implemented at all – stymied by alleged corruption, lack ofcapacity in the Afghan government and fading international interest.
Despite Afghan authorities promising to improve the conditions IDPs are livingin, Amnesty International found that forced evictions – from both governmentand private actors – is a daily threat.
On June 18, 2015, the first day of Ramadan, a group of armed men in military stylethreatened to bulldoze shelters at the Chaman-e-Babrak camp in Kabul. Anelderly man protested the attempted forced eviction, appealing to nearby policeofficers to halt the bulldozing. He was beaten by the armed men, triggering a
In response, residents said that police and the armed men opened fire on theIDPs, killing two people and injuring 10. One of the injured was a 12-year-oldboy. 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 mobileclinics, operated by NGOs or the government, occasionally available, IDPs areoften 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 privateclinics,” one 50-year-old woman in Herat told Amnesty International. “We have
no other choice.”
As people without any stable source of income, IDPs can find themselvesburdened with large amounts of debt. In one case, a father told AmnestyInternational that he had to borrow 20,000 Afs (US$292) to pay for an operationfor his son. “[This is] an enormous sum of money for us,” the father said.
Despite the assertion that IDPs have a right to request and receive food, waterand adequate clothing in the 2014 policy and their obligations underinternational law, the Afghan government has failed to provide reliableaccessibility to basic living necessities. People are forced to make long, dailytrips to gather water and struggle to find one daily meal.
“Food is a luxury here, no one can afford it,” Raz Muhammad, a communityleader in Kabul’s Chaman-e-Barbak camp said. “We mostly live off bread orspoiled vegetables from the market. The last time we received food assistancewas ahead of last winter when we got three sacks of wheat.”
Since being forced to leave their homes, IDP children’s education has beeninterrupted and adults have been reduced to chronic unemployment.
“Internally displaced persons should not suffer discrimination of any kind,” said Patel. “They should be provided with the same access to education andemployment opportunities that other Afghans are.”
The IDP policy states that no displaced child should be denied an education evenif they can’t afford essentials like school books, uniforms and other educationalsupplies.
In practice, however, the financial burdens borne by IDPs have meant thatchildren often work to support their families, such as by washing cars, polishingshoes for money, and collecting plastic bags to resell.
“The financial burdens on displaced families are compounded,” said Patel. “They have lost the traditional sources of their livelihoods, and only havefew opportunities for informal work, creating circumstances where women areexcluded, and children are being exploited and not educated.”
The IDP Policy: A failed promise
The 2014 IDP Policy spells out the rights of IDPs on paper and a concrete actionplan for the Afghan government to implement it. But it has not lived up to itspromise and, so far, showed little benefits for those displaced.
There are many reasons for the failure to implement it – for one, there is anenormous lack of capacity and expertise in the Afghan government when itcomes to IDPs. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, charged withcoordinating the Policy’s implementation, is badly under-resourced and has been
beset by corruption allegations for years.
At the same time, the international community has not stepped in as much as itcould where the Afghan government has been unable to. With other crisesgrabbing global attention and donor money, aid to Afghanistan is dwindling. TheUN has asked for US$ 393 million in humanitarian funding for Afghanistan in 2016 –thesmallest figure in years despite the dire humanitarian situation. By May, less thana quarter had been funded.
Amnesty International is calling on the Afghan authorities and the internationalcommunity to immediately ensure that the most urgent needs of those displacedare met. Furthermore, the Afghan government must make the implementation ofthe IDP Policy a priority, and ensure that enough resources are dedicate across
the government to making it a reality.
Key international actors in Afghanistan must also do more to ensure that thehuman rights of those displaced are met, and lend more weight, expertise andresources to the implementation of the IDP Policy.
“All parties that have been involved in Afghanistan over the past 15 years have aresponsibility to come together and make sure that the very people theinternational community set out to help are not abandoned to an even moreprecarious fate,” said Patel.
“Afghanistan and the world must act now to end the country’s displacementcrisis, before it is too late.”