Immense human toll of spiraling hostilities in Afghanistan falls heaviest on women and children

As fighting intensifies across Afghanistan, around 80 per cent of those newly displaced are women and children.

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© UNHCR/Eric Lutfi

As fighting intensifies across much of Afghanistan, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning of an unfolding humanitarian crisis, with women and children bearing the heaviest toll.  

This year more than 500,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan, including almost a quarter of a million people who have fled since May. Around 80 per cent of those displaced are women and children, like 24-year-old widow Maryam and her two sons and two daughters.  

After hearing gunfire break out all around their home, Maryam and her family fled with nothing but a blanket and the clothes they were wearing. They’re now staying in a makeshift shelter in a camp in northern Afghanistan, around 34 miles (55 km) from where they lived, but are struggling to get enough food and to find clean drinking water.

Maryam said, “There have been nights when we had nothing at all to eat.” 

Like Maryam, the vast majority of Afghans forced to flee remain within their country, as close to their homes as fighting will allow – at the end of 2020, 2.9 million Afghans were internally displaced across the country. 

Despite the challenges, UNHCR teams are responding to the most critical priorities by providing food, shelter, hygiene and sanitary kits and other lifesaving assistance, together with partners. 

The UN Refugee Agency is urging the international community to urgently step up its support to respond to this latest crisis and stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed. 

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UNHCR teams remain in Afghanistan and continue to help displaced Afghans with emergency shelter, food, health, water and sanitation support, despite challenges accessing people in need. This includes the distribution of family tents, hygiene kits, core relief items like blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets.   

Your support matters. To support relief efforts, please donate today.  

For more information about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, please visit our Afghanistan country page.  

You can read more from UNHCR’s spokesperson Shabia Mantoo.

*Name changed for protection purposes. 

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