Study Reveals Vulnerability of IDPs Living in Afghan Cities and Urges a Comprehensive Approach to Support Durable Solutions

June 1, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 1, 2011 – In an effort to better understand the characteristics, livelihood strategies and vulnerabilities of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) households living in urban centres and to find a durable solution for them, UNHCR in partnership with the World Bank completed a research study on IDPs in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat cities. A total of 450 IDP households (150 households in three locations in each city) were interviewed to provide the baseline data for the study.

The research study highlights that conflict-induced displacement; limited reintegration opportunities for returning refugees, the rapid growth of cities and proliferation of informal settlements constitute an enormously complex challenge for the Government, Municipalities, humanitarian and development actors in Afghanistan.

The study, which is part of a broader World Bank research on poverty in Afghanistan, details the extreme vulnerability of IDPs, even in comparison to the profile of urban poverty captured in the World Bank’s Poverty Status Report based on the 2007/08 National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment.

“The research identifies the realities of displacement and the risk that unplanned urban growth leaves entire communities vulnerable to extreme poverty,” said Nicholas Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “We hope the analysis will contribute to inform the public policy debate on how to promote more inclusive urban development and to assist the most vulnerable segments of the Afghan population.”

Key findings of the research include:

• While conflict and insecurity are usually the main push factors to displacement, economic considerations such as food security and better employment opportunities act as the main pull factors to the urban centres.

• Displacement to urban centres is rarely temporary. 70% of IDPs interviewed have lived in their current informal settlement for over 2 years and more than 90% plan to settle permanently. 80% said that their unwillingness to return home was due to the lack of livelihood opportunities in their place of origin. • IDPS living in informal settlements of urban areas tend to be more vulnerable and deprived than urban poor, with the biggest challenges being related to unemployment, access to proper housing and food security.

• IDPs have fewer labor market opportunities. This is mainly due to the lack of skills adapted to the urban economic context and lower literacy rates compared to the urban poor which translates into lower earning capacity and higher vulnerability to poverty.

• Most urban IDPs live in informal settlements with poor sanitation and few essential services. Over 70% do not have access to electricity, adequate water and sanitation facilities. 18% of the urban poor face similar challenges.

• IDPs live in much more precarious housing conditions than the urban poor, a key factor in their vulnerability irrespective of the length of displacement. About 60% of IDPs live in tents, temporary shelter or shack, and 85% of IDPs do not have any land deed compared to 25% of the broader category of urban poor.

• IDPs living in informal settlements are also extremely vulnerable to food insecurity especially for the initial years of settlement. 14% of IDPs covered in this study report to have problems satisfying food needs several time every month, showing a risk of being food insecure almost 5 times higher compared to the urban poor population.

The study urges the Afghan Government and the international community to:

• Go beyond a purely humanitarian approach and looking for sustainable solutions for IDPs in informal settlements;

• Develop a comprehensive and integrated developmental approach to displacement in urban areas; and

• Strengthen existing monitoring and coordination efforts to target the immediate needs of urban IDPs, especially in the initial phases of displacement

“The ultimate goal is to help the Government develop an integrated and comprehensive national IDP strategy for durable solutions, and to assist the humanitarian community to respond more effectively to the assistance and protection needs of IDPs,” said Peter Nicolaus, UNHCR Representative in Afghanistan.

It’s further suggested to focus on resolving the protracted IDP situation through local integration recognizing that the vast majority of IDPs living in cities are unwilling to return to their places of origin. The report concludes that internal displacement is likely to continue, if not to grow, amid continuing insecurity, and that there’s an urgent need to develop a policy for urban development to provide proper housing, security of tenure and access to essential services for IDPs who decide to settle in urban areas.

Note to editors:
An estimated 433,066 persons, comprising 70,792 families remain internally displaced in Afghanistan. Of these, 117,011 persons were displaced prior to December 2002. Between June 2009 and April 2011, an estimated 226,682 persons were displaced due to conflict. The numbers reported are estimates and not firm figures.