With daily battles between the government forces and Taliban insurgents, the number of people who have fled their homes for safer parts of Afghanistan has hit a record high, the UN said Wednesday.
As of November 30 more than half a million Afghans ─ 515,800 people ─ had been internally displaced by fighting, surpassing a previous record of 471,000 set last year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The figure has more than doubled since 2014, pointing to a sharp increase in the number of people leaving their homes due to escalating violence in the war-torn country.
“I am concerned these record figures show not just an alarming number of new IDPs, but a longer term crisis where increasing numbers of families in Afghanistan are facing prolonged displacement,” Mark Bowden UN humanitarian coordinator said in a statement, referring to internally displaced people.
Combined with the more than 600,000 Afghan refugees who have been forced to return to the country from Pakistan this year, the mass migration to safer urban areas is draining local resources, UNOCHA said.
Massive internal displacement has plagued Afghanistan for years, beginning with the Soviet invasion in 1979.
But with the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban launched a bloody insurgency that has since spread to previously safer parts of the country.
The violence has been driven in particular in the past two years, by Taliban’s repeated assaults on Afghan cities, which puts more civilians in the crosshairs.
According to UN data, a record 198 out of 399 districts of Afghanistan are now reporting conflict-induced displacement, and for the first time, all 34 provinces are hosting IDPs.
The UNOCHA said it had received 54 percent of the $152 million in emergency funding it needs to address the immediate needs of internally displaced people in Afghanistan.
They said it was crucial to ensure “vulnerable displaced families not just receive lifesaving, emergency humanitarian assistance, but support that delivers a real opportunity for IDPs to rebuild their lives for the long-term,” Bowen said.