With reports of up to 200,000 people arriving in Afghanistan from Pakistan since the beginning of October, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is delivering emergency healthcare, psychosocial support and providing hygiene services to families who are sleeping in camps at the Torkham crossing area.

Since the Pakistan government ordered the return of all undocumented foreigners from Pakistan on 3 October, thousands of Afghan families have arrived in Torkham, Nangarhar province. In response, the IRC has deployed a mobile health team that has so far reached over 1,700 people with emergency medical care, maternal healthcare, nutrition services, and mental health support. Meanwhile, the IRC is also delivering psychosocial support for vulnerable groups, including women and children, installing latrines and waste management sites, and delivering information on the prevention of communicable diseases.

Naseeb Mashal, IRC Afghanistan Senior Area Coordinator, said, 

“The needs in Torkham are immense and, with hundreds of families arriving each day, they will only grow. Our health team has treated many people, including children, for severe injuries sustained on the long and arduous journey through the mountains to Afghanistan. In addition, many of the new arrivals are women and girls and, from the IRC’s work in crises around the world, we know that in situations like this they are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse

“The next few months will be critical; the public sector and health system is fragile and unable to cope to meet the needs of those who have returned. The humanitarian response requires urgent funding from the international community so that support can be scaled up to meet the needs of the thousands of new arrivals at the crossing areas as well as in the areas where families will eventually settle. As winter approaches, the IRC is profoundly fearful for the survival of people who are sleeping in tents or under open skies, as the temperatures are continuing to drop and heavy rains are expected to start in mid-December. 

“It is expected that people will continue to arrive for the next six months but the crisis conditions they will experience will remain for the long term. After decades of conflict, instability and economic crisis, Afghanistan will struggle to absorb families - many of whom have not lived here for decades. With an existing population of over six million internally displaced individuals, the Afghans returning from Pakistan face a bleak future.”

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across twelve provinces. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community-based education, basic health services to remote and hard to access communities, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.