Over 2,500 families have left their homes in different districts of insurgency-battered Helmand, Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan over the past two months, provincial officials told IRIN on 27 September.
[Listen to IRIN radio report in Dari or Pashto]
Many displaced civilians who have flocked into Kandahar city say they left their homes because Taliban insurgents tried to force them to join their ranks, feed and care for their wounded fighters and provide financial support for their campaign.
Hundreds of families have also been displaced because of intense aerial bombing by international forces in their bid to defeat Taliban rebels in the southern provinces, displaced people in Kandahar said.
“About 590 families from Uruzgan Province and 1,500 from Helmand Province have recently come to over a dozen locations around Kandahar city,” said Ahmad Shah Peerali, head of the rural rehabilitation and development department in Kandahar.
The head of Kandahar provincial council, Ahmad Wali Karzai, said hundreds of civilians had abandoned their homes and properties in Shah Walikot, Ghorak and Maiwand districts since August.
“Because of the numerous demands that Taliban fighters make on civilians, about 750 families have moved to areas inside or close to the city [Kandahar],” Karzai said. Needs assessment
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahamadi, however, denied the insurgents forced people to work for them: “It is only propaganda,” Ahmadi said on the phone from an unidentified location.
Aid versus security
Kandahar Province is already home to thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live in several camps, and the influx of new IDPs has put pressure on the limited humanitarian assistance currently being made available to hundreds of thousand of needy people in Kandahar Province, local authorities say.
“If government and aid organisations do not help us quickly,” said one displaced man from Helmand Province, “our children will die this winter.”
Shelter, food, medicine and drinking water are among the most urgent needs, said aid workers.
“Either they [government and aid organisations] should help us here [in Kandahar] or the government should improve security in our areas in order for us to return,” said Hayatullah, a displaced man from Uruzgan Province.
“Stop bombing our villages and we will go back to our homes,” said an elderly man, Abdul Bari.
Photo: Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN
More than 2,500 families have left their homes in different districts of Helmand, Urozgan and Kandahar
The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), in collaboration with three government departments, has launched a quick needs assessment survey the results of which are to be shared with international aid organisations, including UN agencies.
Najibullah Barith, head of the ARCS in Kandahar, said: “After we get an understanding of the needs, we will ask the UN and other donors to help us respond.”
There are, however, accessibility problems, which have prevented a reliable needs assessment from being carried out quickly.
According to local officials, recently displaced people have sought temporary refuge in different locations such as in relatives’ houses, uninhabited government buildings, rented housing and in old IDP camps.
More fighting since Peace Day
In the past six days, at least 160 people have died in armed conflicts in southern Afghanistan, the US military has said.
US forces accompanied by Afghan soldiers “killed more than 100 insurgents in an engagement” in southern Helmand Province on 25-26 September, a US military press release said on 26 September.
|A map highlighting insurgency-battered Helmand, Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan|
In neighbouring Uruzgan Province “more than three dozen insurgents were killed as they prepared an ambush,” read another US military statement released on 26 September.
The US military said three non-combatants were wounded in the crossfire and evacuated to a military medical facility in Uruzgan Province. Local people, however, said at least 10 civilians died in the military operations.
In both military operations aerial strikes were used to subdue the insurgents, according to US military press releases.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has repeatedly called on international forces to reduce aerial strikes, which reportedly pose greater risks to civilians, and increase ground operations in order to better ensure civilian protection.