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2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Afghanistan

| Overview |

Working environment

  • 2014 is a key transition year for Afghanistan, with the presidential elections planned in April 2014 and the withdrawal of international security forces scheduled for the end of the year. There is broad international consensus that assistance for institution-building will continue to be needed during the transition period.

  • In this context, Afghanistan's security situation is likely to remain complex. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) is currently estimated at some 600,000 and this figure may rise further in 2014. Although the Government of Afghanistan respects the principle of non-refoulement, asylum-seekers and refugees face protection concerns related to the volatile security situation and difficulties in accessing basic services.

  • The withdrawal of the international forces is expected to have security implications, and therefore UNHCR's access to certain locations and communities may be negatively affected.

  • Afghanistan continues to face significant humanitarian challenges, which are exacerbated by the security situation, economic insecurity and the limited capacity of the Government to provide access to basic services. National and international NGOs, which have been providing basic services to the most vulnerable communities, may be limited in the transition period. Moreover, continued conflict, recurrent drought and other natural disasters, rapid urbanization, and a disproportionately high number of young people in the country, pose formidable challenges to efforts to encourage return and create an enabling environment for sustainable reintegration. A fall in refugee returns may also be associated with increased uncertainty about security in view of the 2014 elections and the withdrawal of international security forces. Afghanistan continues to be the world's largest repatriation operation, and over 5.7 million Afghan refugees (representing a quarter of the country's population) have voluntarily returned home since 2002. Yet, a substantial number of returnees have not fully reintegrated in the absence of socio-economic opportunities, and still need assistance.

  • The unstable socio-economic and security situation is further exacerbated by increasing urbanization, with many returning Afghans having migrated to towns and cities, thus contributing to rising poverty and unemployment in urban centres. The complex challenges related to urbanization and displacement require attention within broader management and planning frameworks.

People of concern

The main groups of people of concern planned for in 2014 under the Afghanistan operation are: Afghan refugees returning to Afghanistan from the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan through the voluntary repatriation programme, and returnees who are facing challenges in reintegrating in Afghan society; IDPs who are forced to flee because of conflict and general insecurity and those who are seeking a durable solution to end their displacement; and other foreign nationals who are seeking asylum in Afghanistan. In 2014, the issue of statelessness will be considered with a view to identifying the individuals who are potentially at risk of statelessness.

Planning figures

UNHCR 2014 planning figures for Afghanistan
TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN Dec 2013 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total 1,879,150 1,879,150 1,960,170 1,960,170 1,820,190 1,820,190
Refugees Various 80 80 90 90 100 100
People in refugee-like situations Pakistan 17,000 17,000 18,000 18,000 18,000 18,000
Asylum-seekers Various 70 70 80 80 90 90
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Afghanistan 172,000 172,000 172,000 172,000 172,000 172,000
Internally displaced Afghanistan 650,000 650,000 750,000 750,000 800,000 800,000
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-IDPs) Afghanistan 20,000 20,000 50,000 50,000 50,000 50,000
Others of concern Various 1,020,000 1,020,000 970,000 970,000 780,000 780,000

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2014, the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) will continue to be the framework for UNHCR's activities. Responding to humanitarian needs related to return and investing in sustainable reintegration in the context of a constrained financial environment have been major challenges. In the coming biennium, the Office will focus on supporting government line ministries and development actors to ensure that areas of high return are adequately prioritized in national development planning and strategies, and will remain a strategic partner in this process. Moreover, UNHCR will continue to facilitate voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan through initial reintegration assistance, including repatriation grants and shelter assistance.

Concerning internal displacement, UNHCR's inter-agency coordination role will continue through its leadership of the protection cluster, the national IDP task force, the emergency shelter and non-food items (NFI) cluster and by supporting the implementation of the national IDP policy (expected to be finalized in the course of 2013). UNHCR will remain ready to respond to possible new conflict-induced displacements. As cluster co-lead agency with NRC for IDP protection in Afghanistan, UNHCR will also strengthen its information management system throughout 2014, to provide real-time information on conflict-induced population movements, the root causes of displacement, immediate humanitarian assistance needs, and the approach for solutions.

| Implementation |


The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) and its provincial departments will continue to be UNHCR's main Government counterparts in Afghanistan. UNHCR is in the process of reviewing its partnership arrangement with the MoRR with a view to enhancing results-oriented capacity-building to further mutual objectives from 2014 onwards.

The Office will strengthen its advocacy work with line ministries, and in particular with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, as well as the UN Country Team to facilitate sustainable reintegration. The ministerial group chaired by the Second Vice President of the country will add further impetus to such work in 2014.

The Office will also continue to work within the Humanitarian Country Team and lead the protection and the emergency shelter/NFI clusters. UNHCR will continue to co-lead the IDP Task Force with the MoRR.

2014 UNHCR partners in Afghanistan
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation
NGOs: Afghan Community Rehabilitation Unit, Afghan General Help Coordination Office, Afghan Planning Agency, Afghan Public Welfare Organization, Afghan Society Relief and Care Organization, Afghan Unique Development Organization, Afghanistan Agency for Integrated Development, Afghanistan Human Resources Development Agency, Afghanistan Reconstruction and Planning Department, Afghanistan Rehabilitation and Education Programme, Agence d'Aide à la Coopération technique et au développement, Agency for Farming Support, Alfl ah Institute of Higher Education, Ansari Rehabilitation Association for Afghanistan, Central Afghanistan Welfare Committee, Communication Development and Social Affairs Charity, Cooperation Centre for Afghanistan, Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan, Danish Refugee Council, Development and Care Group, Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan, Development of Afghan Women Organization, Engineering Rehabilitation Association for Afghanistan, Greenway Organization, Gruppo Volontariato Civile, Human Dignity Society, Humanitarian Action for the People of Afghanistan, Humanitarian Organization for Local Development, International Rescue Committee, INTERSOS - Italy, Justice and Civil Society Support Organization, Mediothek Afghanistan, New Consulting and Relief Organization, Norwegian Project Office- Rural Rehabilitation Association for Afghanistan, Norwegian Refugee Council, Organization for Relief Development, Organization of Human Welfare, Reconstruction and Social Services for Afghanistan Organization, Sanayee Development Organization, Shafaq Reconstruction Organization, Social Service Organization for Afghan Returnees, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan, Warchild UK, Watan Social and Technical Services Association
Operational partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Ministry of Urban Planning and Development, Ministry of Water and Agriculture, Ministry of Women Affairs
NGOs: ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief & Development), Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, Norwegian Refugee Council
Others: Asian Development Bank, ILO, IOM, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNMACCA, UNMAS, WFP, World Bank

| Financial information |

In recent years, the financial requirements for UNHCR's operation in Afghanistan have seen an overall increase, peaking at USD 139.7 million in 2012 with 94,500 refugee returns. In 2013, with the fall in returnee figures that continues to date, the budget decreased, with the revised 2013 budget standing at USD 131.4 million.

In 2014, the financial requirements for Afghanistan are set at USD 143.1 million, an increase of USD 11.8 million when compared to the 2013 revised budget, due to an anticipated rise in conflict-related displacement.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Representation in Afghanistan
Style of Address The UNHCR Representative in Afghanistan
Street Address 41, Jadi Solh (Peace Avenue)
Mailing Address P.O. Box 3232
Telephone +41 22 739 7500
Facsimile +41 22 739 7501
Time Zone GMT + 4:30
Working Hours
Monday:07:45 - 16:15
Tuesday:07:45 - 16:15
Wednesday:07:45 - 16:15
Thursday:07:45 - 16:15
Sunday:07:45 - 16:15
Public Holidays 02 January 2011 - New Year's Day (Observed)
15 February 2011 - Prophet's Day
21 March 2011 - Nawroz
31 July 2011 - First Day of Ramadhan
30 August 2011 - Eid-uI-Fitr
31 August 2011 - Eid-uI-Fitr
06 November 2011 - Eid-ul-Qurban
07 November 2011 - Eid-ul-Qurban
05 December 2011 - Tenth of Moharam
25 December 2011 - Christmas Day
The UNHCR Sub-Office in Herat
Style of Address The UNHCR Head of Sub-Office at Herat
Street Address Park Round About end of Majidi Street, Herat, Afghanistan
Mailing Address N/A
Telephone +93 40 4470 41 - 43
Facsimile +90 93 042 080
Time Zone GMT + 4:30
Working Hours
Monday:8:00 AM - 13:00 PM, 13:30 PM - 16:30 PM
Tuesday:8:00 AM - 13:00 PM, 13:30 PM - 16:30 PM
Wednesday:8:00 AM - 13:00 PM, 13:30 PM - 16:30 PM
Thursday:8:00 AM - 13:00 PM, 13:30 PM - 16:30 PM
Sunday:8:00 AM - 13:00 PM, 13:30 PM - 16:30 PM
Public Holidays 02 January 2011 - New Year's Day (Observed)
15 February 2011 - Prophet's Day
21 March 2011 - Nawroz
31 July 2011 - First Day of Ramadhan
30 August 2011 - Eid-uI-Fitr
31 August 2011 - Eid-uI-Fitr
06 November 2011 - Eid-ul-Qurban
07 November 2011 - Eid-ul-Qurban
05 December 2011 - Tenth of Moharam
25 December 2011 - Christmas Day
UNHCR Sub-Office Mazar-e-Sharif
Style of Address UNHCR Sub-Office Mazar-e-Sharif
Street Address Kart-e-Shafakhana, Near Shafakhana Mosque
Mailing Address via Kabul:
P.O. Box 3232
Telephone +93791990030
Facsimile via HQ +41227397505
Time Zone GMT+4:30
Working Hours
Public Holidays 02 January New Year's Day
15 February Prophet's Birthday
21 March Nawrooz
28 April Mujahideen's Victory Day
19 August Independence Day
30-31 September Eid-I-Fitr
6-07 November Eid-ul-Qurban
5 December Tenth of Moharam
25 December Christmas Day


Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Afghanistan [1]
Refugees [2] 16,863
Asylum Seekers [3] 66
Returned Refugees [4] 39,666
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 631,286
Returned IDPs [6] 21,830
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 275,486
Total Population of Concern 985,197
Originating from Afghanistan [1]
Refugees [2] 2,556,556
Asylum Seekers [3] 75,294
Returned Refugees [4] 39,666
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 631,286
Returned IDPs [6] 21,830
Various [8] 275,817
Total Population of Concern 3,600,449
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 1,000
2012 1,000
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0

Afghanistan UNHCR Fundraising Reports Rss FeedUNHCR Fundraising Reports

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Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Home Without Land

Land is hot property in mountainous Afghanistan, and the lack of it is a major reason Afghans in exile do not want to return.

Although landless returnees are eligible for the Afghan government's land allocation scheme, demand far outstrips supply. By the end of 2007, the authorities were developing 14 settlements countrywide. Nearly 300,000 returnee families had applied for land, out of which 61,000 had been selected and 3,400 families had actually moved into the settlements.

Desperate returnees sometimes have to camp in open areas or squat in abandoned buildings. Others occupy disputed land where aid agencies are not allowed to build permanent structures such as wells or schools.

One resilient community planted itself in a desert area called Tangi in eastern Afghanistan. With help from the Afghan private sector and the international community, water, homes, mosques and other facilities have sprouted – proof that the right investment and commitment can turn barren land into the good earth.

Posted on 31 January 2008

Home Without Land

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

A UNHCR-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is helping to keep returnee children off the streets by teaching them to read and write, give them room to play and offer vocational training in useful skills such as tailoring, flower making, and hairstyling.

Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families. For the past seven years, a UNHCR-funded project has been working to bring change.

Posted on 12 November 2008

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Afghanistan: The Reality of Return

The UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme join forces to improve the lives of Afghan returnees in the east of the country

After more than two decades of war, Afghanistan faces enormous recovery needs. The rugged, landlocked nation remains one of the poorest in the world, with more than half its 25 million citizens living below the poverty line. Furthermore, the rise in global food prices has affected more than 2.5 million Afghans, who can no longer afford to buy staples such as wheat flour.

Since 2002, more than 5 million Afghans have gone back home, with a large proportion returning to the eastern provinces. The returnees face huge challenges, such as insecurity, food shortages, insufficient shelter, unemployment and a lack of access to basic services.

UNHCR and WFP are working in partnership to help returnees in Afghanistan to rebuild their lives, particularly in the east. Programmes such as skills training, micro hydroelectricity projects and food distribution have helped Afghans get back on their feet and work towards creating sustainable livelihoods.

Posted on 18 September 2008

Afghanistan: The Reality of Return

Afghans Return Home

In the six months since some 150 families returned from Pakistan's Jalozai refugee village, they have faced land problems and ethnic tensions. Today, however, they face the prospect of spending a bitter winter in northern Afghanistan with little more for shelter than canvas tents.

After 23 years of exile in Pakistan, Qayum and his family returned home to northern Afghanistan earlier this year ago after negotiating to buy land in Sholgara district. But a local tribe refused to let Qayum and his neighbours unload their trucks. The provincial authorities moved them to their current site at Mohajir Qeshlaq. The government has promised Qayum and his neighbours land, but until individual plots can be demarcated and distributed, nobody can build. This means that the entire returnee village - some 150 families - lives under canvas. As the weather turns cold, the prospect of spending an Afghan winter in a tent becomes reality. Returnees also face a food shortage, insufficient water and lack of livelihood opportunities.

In an effort to help, UNHCR will provide supplies to Qayum and his community through the winter. Once the land issue is resolved, the agency will also dig wells and provide shelter assistance to the most vulnerable families at Mohajir Qeshlaq. But it will take more to turn this makeshift settlement into something they can call home.

Afghans Return Home

Zalmaï. Panoramic photo gallery

See Afghanistan through the eyes of a returning refugee as Afghan photographer Zalmaï revisits his homeland after more than 20 years in exile.

"My project tries to capture the determination and the courage of a people that has rarely known peace, their optimism against all odds, and their worry that Afghanistan could still return to the nightmarish condition it is trying to escape," says Zalmaï.

In addition to the emotional journey, this exhibition also marked an aesthetic milestone for the photographer. "I felt that now, after such a long time, there was hope again for Afghanistan. It seemed to me that colours were returning and that they would be those of a peaceful country. And so I set out to find this hope, with – for the first time – colour film in my camera."

Take a peep into this kaleidoscope of Zalmaï's Afghanistan.

Zalmaï. Panoramic photo gallery

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

For over a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has been devastated by conflict and civil strife, with some 8 million people uprooted internally and in neighbouring countries. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 resulted in one of the largest and most successful return operations in history.

Seven years on, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned - increasing Afghanistan's population by an estimated 20 percent.The large majority have gone back to their areas of origin. However, some recent returnees are facing more difficulties as the country's absorption capacity reaches its limits in some areas. Last year, some Afghans returned before they were ready or able to successfully reintegrate due to the closure of refugee villages as well as the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan. In consequence, 30,000 Afghan refugees returned to further displacement in their homeland, unable to return to their villages due to conflict, lack of land, shelter materials, basic services and job opportunities. These challenges have been compounded elsewhere across the country by food insecurity and severe drought.

UNHCR and the Afghan Foreign Ministry highlighted the requirements for sustainable refugee return and reintegration at an international conference in Kabul in November 2008. The donor community welcomed the inclusion of refugee reintegration within the government's five-year national development strategy and the emphasis on land, shelter, water, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods. It is anticipated that repatriation and reintegration will become more challenging in future.

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

Author Hosseini in Afghanistan

UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini visited Afghanistan in early September and saw first-hand one of the UN refugee agency's largest and most complex operations. During a 10-day trip, the best-selling author visited UNHCR projects and met returnees in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Parwan and Kabul. Hosseini, a former Afghan refugee now settled in the United States, noted that it would take time and effort for Afghanistan to provide returnees with adequate infrastructure and services. He urged the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan and to give the country time. Hosseini could not visit the south and parts of the east, where insecurity is impacting on the ability of UNHCR to assess needs and provide assistance to those who need it the most. Since 2003, UNHCR has helped more than 4 million refugees return to Afghanistan. This year, some 300,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan. More than 900,000 remain in Iran and 2 million in Pakistan.

Author Hosseini in Afghanistan

Angelina Jolie promotes reintegration of Afghan returnees

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie in March 2011 returned to Afghanistan. On her second trip to the country, the acclaimed actress called for greater focus to be put on the reintegration of former refugees. More than 5.5 million refugees have returned since 2002, mainly from Pakistan and Iran, and now make up 20 per cent of the population. UNHCR is concerned that too many of these refugees continue to live without jobs, shelter and other basic needs.

Jolie caught up with several families she had met in 2008, still living in a dilapidated warehouse in Kabul. She was moved to see the families struggling to survive in the cold damp building. Children spend their days washing cars for money instead of attending school; the old and sick told Jolie of their pain to be such a burden on the young.

The actress also visited returned refugees living on the Alice Ghan and Barikab land allocation schemes north of Kabul. The returnees told her they were grateful for their houses but needed help with livelihoods. Jolie also visited Qala Gadu village, where she is funding the construction of a girls' primary school.

Angelina Jolie promotes reintegration of Afghan returnees

More focus needed on reintegration of former Afghan refugees

Many of the more than 5.5 million Afghan refugees who have returned home since 2002 are still struggling to survive. Lack of land, job opportunities and other services, combined with poor security in some places, has caused many returnees to head to urban areas. While cities offer the promise of informal day labour, the rising cost of rental accommodation and basic commodities relegate many returnees to life in one of the informal settlements which have mushroomed across Kabul in recent years. Some families are living under canvases and the constant threat of eviction, while others have gained a toe-hold in abandoned buildings around the city.

UNHCR gives humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, and is currently rallying support from donors and humanitarian and development agencies to redouble efforts to help returning refugees reintegrate in Afghanistan.

More focus needed on reintegration of former Afghan refugees

Afghan Refugees in Iran

At a recent conference in Geneva, the international community endorsed a "solutions strategy" for millions of Afghan refugees and those returning to Afghanistan after years in exile. The plan, drawn up between Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and UNHCR, aims to support repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries.

It will benefit refugee returnees to Afghanistan as well as 3 million Afghan refugees, including 1 million in Iran and 1.7 million in Pakistan.

Many of the refugees in Iran have been living there for more than three decades. This photo set captures the lives of some of these exiles, who wait in hope of a lasting solution to their situation.

Afghan Refugees in Iran

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