The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan deteriorated dramatically in 2021, with significant consequences for the most vulnerable among the population. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations launched joint response plans aiming to deliver vital humanitarian relief to 22 million people in Afghanistan and support 5.7 million displaced Afghans and local communities in five neighbouring countries. The requirements in international funding are over US$5 billion for 2022.
Living conditions in Afghanistan have been eroded by decades of conflict, recurrent natural disasters, economic stagnation and under-investment in critical infrastructure and human resources. This situation was exacerbated by intensified conflict in 2021, the continued threat of COVID-19 and a drought affecting most of the country. A main driver of the rise in humanitarian needs is the increase in acute food insecurity, affecting millions.
Some 3.5 million people are currently internally displaced by conflict, while over 1 million IDPs have returned to their places of origin since 2021. UNHCR assists IDPs and other vulnerable Afghans through targeted assistance to meet immediate needs and sustainable reintegration programmes in their places of origin.
Iran and Pakistan, which are neighbours of Afghanistan, host some 2.1 million registered Afghan refugees. The majority of these refugees fled Afghanistan over the years, including from as early as 1979.
In line with Solution Strategy, UNHCR facilitates voluntary repatriation for Afghan refugees from Iran, Pakistan and other countries who wish to return to their home country, once it is established that their return is voluntary, safe, dignified and durable. Since 2002, UNHCR has supported the return of nearly 5.3 million refugees to return to Afghanistan including 3,677 refugees in 2022 (up to September). Refugee returnees are provided with a cash grant to help them address their immediate needs including transportation. As of 1 August 2022, the Voluntary Repatriation cash grant provided by UNHCR has been adjusted to USD 375 per person from USD 250 per person in view of the exponential increase in transportation and living costs in host countries and inside Afghanistan owing to inflation, and the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Besides the cash grant, returning refugees receive basic health care and overnight accommodation when needed in Afghanistan and they may also receive other services provided by partners present at each Encashment Centre (EC).
Many refugees who continue to live in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan cite security in Afghanistan, lack of access to livelihoods, land, shelter and basic services as the main obstacles to return and reintegration.
Those who return often live side by side with vulnerable and affected local communities and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Together they share meagre resources and over-stretched infrastructure, making an area-based approach one of the most effective strategies in a community response. UNHCR implements area-based initiatives to support community stabilization through the provision of basic infrastructure and services.
The Support Platform is helping to build synergies around area-based approaches for solutions, in line with the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).