Media release

UNHCR warns Afghanistan’s conflict taking the heaviest toll on displaced women and children

Afghanistan situation: worsening conflict in northern Afghanistan uproots thousands

© UNHCR/Edris Lutfi

Below is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

13 August 2021. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan today. As widespread fighting intensifies, the United Nations in Afghanistan continues to call for a permanent ceasefire and a negotiated settlement in the interests of the Afghan people.

The human toll of spiraling hostilities is immense. The United Nations Assistance Mission has warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN’s records began.

We are particularly worried about the impact of the conflict on women and girls. Some 80 per cent of nearly a quarter of a million Afghans forced to flee since the end of May are women and children.

Nearly 400,000 were forced from their homes since the beginning of the year, joining 2.9 million Afghans already internally displaced across the country at the end of 2020.

Ongoing fighting has been reported in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The overwhelming majority of Afghans forced to flee remain within the country, as close to their homes as fighting will allow. Since the beginning of this year, nearly 120,000 Afghans have fled from rural areas and provincial towns to Kabul province.

UNHCR is urging the international community to urgently step up its support to respond to this latest Afghanistan displacement crisis.

Our teams, as part of the broader UN effort, has assessed the needs of almost 400,000 internally displaced civilians this year. Responding initially to the most critical priorities, we are providing food, shelter, hygiene and sanitary kits and other lifesaving assistance, together with partners.

UNHCR is calling on countries neighbouring Afghanistan to keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis in Afghanistan.

An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed.

In the context of generalized insecurity in many parts of Afghanistan, it is increasingly clear that Afghans outside of the country may have international protection needs. UNHCR calls for all states to ensure they are able to seek safety, regardless of their current legal status.

Given the dramatic escalation in conflict, UNHCR welcomes the actions now taken by several states to temporarily halt deportations of failed asylum-seekers and ensure access to asylum procedures.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangkok, Catherine Stubberfield, stubberf@unhcr.org, +66 65 929 8062
  • In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, mantoo@unhcr.org, + 41 79337 7650

About UK for UNHCR 

UK for UNHCR is the UN Refugee Agency’s national charity partner for the UK, building solidarity and raising funds to protect refugees worldwide through UNHCR’s work.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. Thanks to voluntary contributions from our UK supporters and partnerships, UNHCR teams can deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. UNHCR also works to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.

UK for UNHCR is a registered charity in England and Wales (registered charity number 1183415). Learn more at www.unrefugees.org.uk

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