The International Rescue Committee (IRC) expresses grave concern for the marked escalation in violence across large parts of Afghan territory over the last 48 hours.

This major increase in violence could cause devastation for civilians who are at risk of being caught up between warring parties. According to the latest UNAMA report, civilian casualties reached record levels in the first half of 2021 and without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is set to witness the highest ever number in a single year. Afghanistan has already produced the second-largest displaced population in the world, after Syria, and with reports that 30,000 are fleeing Afghanistan per day, this number will rise exponentially. 

Already, around 360,000 people have been displaced by conflict this year, but accurate and up-to-date figures are unavailable as most of the humanitarian staff operating amid the main areas of the fighting have also been displaced. 

Vicki Aken, Afghanistan Director for the IRC, said,

“In Afghanistan, women and children made up close to half of all civilian casualties in the first half of this year, and the latest violence should be cause for great alarm for members of the international community. Where fighting is most intense, humanitarian aid workers have also been forced to temporarily flee. If left to unravel further, we could see a major exodus of the population to neighbouring countries, with many people forced to turn to dangerous and illegal routes out of the country as external borders remain closed.

“Meanwhile, the greatest need remains inside Afghanistan, and hundreds of thousands of people have already been internally displaced due to conflict as well as drought. Humanitarian organisations like the IRC are committed to remaining in Afghanistan and continuing to deliver support to its population; it is vital that world leaders do the same. The international community cannot afford to turn their backs but instead must double-down on commitments to ensure humanitarian access for the delivery of aid, advocate for an immediate ceasefire and support a peaceful settlement, and provide resettlement pathways for Afghan refugees.

“The United States has begun relocating a group of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to Virginia. The International Rescue Committee is providing services for these individuals, including reception, medical care, case management and resettlement by a sponsoring resettlement agency. However, this is not a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan – even at the most optimistic this would only represent 0.02% of those in humanitarian need.

“The overall humanitarian situation is worsening as the conflict intensifies; a situation that should be untenable for world leaders. Afghanistan needs sustained aid and diplomatic support from both Western and regional powers - without this, there is little chance that needs will be met and peace will be found.”

With more than 18 million people in need of humanitarian aid, Afghanistan is facing an acute emergency, ranking second on the IRC’s 2021 emergency Watchlist - a global list of humanitarian crises that are expected to deteriorate the most over the coming year. The IRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1988 providing aid to the most vulnerable. With more than 1,700 staff and volunteers, the IRC reaches more than a million Afghans each year with education, protection, water and sanitation, emergency response, and economic recovery programs.