UNHCR warns of imminent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Number of civilian casualties has risen 29 percent during first quarter of this year compared to 2020, reveals UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

Geneva: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning of a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the escalating conflict brings increased human suffering and civilian displacement.

Around 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January 2021 – primarily due to insecurity and violence – bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million, the UN said in a statement.

Families forced to flee their homes in recent weeks cite the worsening security situation as the predominant reason for their flight, the statement added.

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Displaced civilians have told UNHCR and partners of incidents of extortion by non-state armed groups and the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on major roads. Many have reported interruptions to social services and a loss of income due to rising insecurity.

The number of civilian casualties has risen 29 per cent during the first quarter of this year compared to 2020, according to UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. An increasing proportion of women and children were among those targeted.

“The needs of those who have had to flee suddenly are acute. UNHCR and partners, as part of a coordinated response, are assisting newly displaced Afghans with emergency shelter, food, health, water and sanitation support and cash assistance, despite challenges in accessing vulnerable groups,” the UN agency said.

UNHCR said that the resilience of the Afghan people has been pushed to the limit by prolonged conflict, high levels of displacement, the impact of COVID-19, recurrent natural disasters, including drought, and deepening poverty. Some 65 per cent of the Afghan population – in and outside of Afghanistan – are children and young people.

“A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement within the country, as well as to neighbouring countries and beyond,” the UN agency said.

Iran and Pakistan host nearly 90 per cent of displaced Afghans – more than two million registered Afghan refugees in total, it added.

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