“Local integration” key to internal displacement - report

Aid agencies and the government must focus on “local integration” to help bring to an end long-term displacement, says a new report by an internally displaced persons (IDP) task force comprising government bodies, NGOs and the UN.

Such a policy, if favoured by the government, would require land distribution and the creation of basic infrastructure such as schools, health clinics and roads, it said.

Internal displacement in Afghanistan poses complex challenges, and finding ways of resolving the issue of tens of thousands of IDPs is “neither easy nor quick”, said the report entitled National Profile of Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan (NPIDP).

Excluding conflict displacement, which has been difficult to gauge due to access restrictions, the report said there were 235,833 IDPs nationwide. Most (166,153) had been displaced since 2001-2002.

“Internal displacement in Afghanistan is a highly complex phenomenon; its causes include not only armed conflict and natural disasters such as droughts and floods, but also inter-communal tensions and human rights violations.”

“Go home” policy no longer workable

About 1.2 million people, mostly ethnic Pashtuns from northern parts of the country, were forced out of their homes after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Of these, 98,654 families (489,525 individuals) were helped to return to their homes by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) from 2002 to October 2007.

“By 2008 it was clear that the return had become a trickle,” said the report, citing “continued insecurity in large areas of the country, inter-tribal and personal conflict, landlessness, drought, and lack of job opportunities or basic services in rural areas” as the main factors.

Consequently the “go home” policy - preferred by the government - is no longer workable, particularly for protracted IDPs, it said.

Helping aid agencies to understand

Photo: UNHCR
Map showing location of IDPs in Afghanistan as of August 200

Most displaced families live in camps or makeshift settlements and almost all need humanitarian aid, protection and access to basic services such as health and education. The NPIDP is expected to help aid agencies better understand and respond to IDP needs.

“It is a building block for trying to understand what is happening with Afghans who are internally displaced and what their needs are,” Ingrid Macdonald, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s protection and advocacy manager in Kabul, told IRIN.

“This profiling is important for planning an appropriate response and helping to ensure that those who are in need are receiving the basic services that they have a right to receive,” she said.

Five categories

Aid agencies say displacement in Afghanistan is complex because it has happened at “different times, in different parts of the country and for different reasons”.

The report identified five categories of IDPs: protracted IDPs from 2001, new conflict-affected IDPs (mostly in insecure areas), returnees and deportees from neighbouring countries, IDPs as a result of food insecurity, and urban IDPs.

Lasting solutions to displacement range from local integration and tackling insecurity to improving socio-economic opportunities, according to the report.

Responding to the needs of IDPs who were forced to flee fighting is seen as a major challenge due to access restrictions.

“One must, of course, be pragmatic and realistic: where IDPs are displaced in areas over which the government has little or no control, or where it is not possible for government or humanitarian actors to intervene, expectations will need to be tempered by those on-the-ground security realities,” the report said.