A group of nine international NGOs operating in Afghanistan urgently calls on the international community and humanitarian donors to increase their support for displaced families who have returned to Afghanistan to ensure their survival during the harsh winter months. Additionally, to avert a deepening crisis, they urge hosting countries to continue to offer refuge for Afghans abroad until a safe and sustainable return to their home country is viable.

Almost three months have passed since Pakistan announced that undocumented foreign nationals must leave the country or face deportation, since then close to half a million Afghans have crossed the border into Afghanistan. Returning Afghan families face a bleak future with little to no resources to survive the harsh winter, let alone rebuild their lives, warn CARE International (CARE), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), INTERSOS, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), Mercy Corps, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Save the Children International and World Vision International (WVI).

80 percent of those returning are women and children who are exposed to heightened protection risks on the journey back to Afghanistan. Mariam*, a mother of five who is confined in a living space with 11 family members, shares her family’s struggles in meeting their needs:

“We used all our money, including the assistance we received at the border, to return to Afghanistan and pay the transportation costs. Some relatives helped us find shelter in Jalalabad, but the owner is now asking for the rent, and we have nothing left. What will we even find to eat? I wish we could have our own house and find work opportunities. Without support for us women, we will be forced to beg on the streets or send our children in the streets to find whatever work they can.”

Afghanistan is still reeling from decades of conflict, disasters such as the recent devastating earthquakes in the western part of the country, and a crippling economic crisis. With 29 million people in need of humanitarian support, Afghanistan has little to offer to those returning.

With nothing to go back to and limited resources available, the survival and well-being of the returning families is at stake. The lack of jobs and employment opportunities severely impacts the ability of those returning to support their families and integrate into communities, especially for women-headed households. Long-term solutions must also be prioritised to support all displaced Afghans in the country to rebuild their lives, for example, they must be able to settle on adequate lands without fear of eviction and further displacement, as well as access job opportunities and education.

*The name has been changed to protect the interviewee.

Notes to editors: