A Status Report on the Refugee Situation in Afghanistan
Dawn Calabia, Senior Advisor, Refugees International
Photos | Transcript 

Washington, DC—On February 11, 2011, Dawn Calabia, Senior Advisor of Refugees International, gave a status report on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan at a Women’s Foreign Policy Group brown-bag luncheon. Calabia, just back from Afghanistan, shared her insights on the challenges for recently displaced people in Afghanistan, as well as those of refugees returning to the country.

When the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was founded in 2004, there were already over 8 million registered Afghan refugees living outside the country, primarily in Pakistan and Iran. Since the fall of the Taliban, 5.6 million Afghan refugees have returned, but the Afghan Government has been unable to deal with this rapid influx. The returning refugees have built informal settlements around major cities such as Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Jalalabad. Since some of the refugees are squatting on government-owned property, NGOs and aid agencies have not been permitted to make improvements to the camps, leaving many Afghan without needed services.

150,000 to 200,000 Afghans are currently displaced within the country due to the ongoing conflict, especially in the South and East. According to UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees, the internally displaced are at an increased risk of attacks when the Taliban tries to assert control over an area.

Calabia asserts that the humanitarian situation can only be alleviated if security improves and aid workers can reach those who need assistance most. She also emphasized the need for increased communication and cooperation between international NGOs, the UN, and local organizations. Calabia urges the international community not to focus on “major infrastructure needs, but on the humanitarian needs of the people, particularly for access to health care, for basic education, and for clean water.”


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