Geneva – I am extremely concerned by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan – particularly the impact on mobile and displaced populations, including returnees.
The last few days have seen a deadly escalation of fighting in Helmand, Kandahar, Herat, Kunduz and Nimroz provinces, adding untold suffering in a country where over 5 million people are already displaced internally.
As the number of people displaced due to conflict around the country increases to more than 359,000 newly displaced in 2021, IOM will continue to support the people of Afghanistan, providing emergency shelter, core relief items, emergency health services and protection assistance to displaced persons. Added to the internal displacement dynamics, Afghanistan continues to see record numbers of undocumented returnees in 2021; over 680,000 Afghans returned in the first seven months of this year, according to the Border Monitoring Team of the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation (DoRR).
The country is also in the throes of a third wave of COVID-19 and a severe drought. These factors leave almost half of Afghanistan’s population in need of emergency relief assistance, with needs expected to continue to rise.
IOM, along with the rest of the humanitarian community, is committed to stay and deliver relief and assistance to mobile and displaced populations in Afghanistan. We will continue to operate in a neutral and impartial manner but insist on unimpeded access and assurances that our staff and service providers can deliver assistance and services – particularly to women and girls and those most vulnerable - without interference.
We urge all parties to the conflict and neighbouring countries to do everything they can to ensure that border crossing-points remain open, and humanitarian workers are able to access vulnerable populations in the border areas.
I also call on the international community and our donors to support our efforts and not abandon Afghanistan at this critical moment.
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More than 5 million Afghans are Displaced internally, including these families in Herat.
Photo: IOM/Mohammed Muse 2021