Afghanistan emergency

Afghanistan is experiencing a humanitarian crisis as violence and insecurity have brought more suffering and internal displacement for thousands of Afghans.

Over half a million people have been internally displaced in 2021 alone – and the number of people forced to flee continues to rise.

This latest wave of violence in 2021 is another blow for Afghans, who have suffered more than 40 years of conflict, natural disasters, chronic poverty and food insecurity. The resilience of refugees, the internally displaced and host communities is being stretched to the absolute limit. Support is urgently needed.

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people newly displaced within Afghanistan between January and July 2021

3 million

people already internally displaced in Afghanistan by 31 December 2020

2.2 million

Afghan refugees registered in Iran and Pakistan

Full statistics
Last updated August 2021

“As living conditions in Afghanistan worsen, UNHCR, with other humanitarian organizations, is stepping up emergency aid programmes for thousands of people. Cash, tents, hygiene kits and other relief items are distributed daily to women and men in need including displaced people.”

– Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

The newest humanitarian and displacement crisis in Afghanistan has dramatically escalated in a very short period of time. Since the beginning of the year, over 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced in the country, and over 80% of those displaced since May are women and children. In total, some 3.5 million people are now displaced inside Afghanistan due to conflict. UNHCR remains very concerned about the risk of human rights violations, especially for women and girls.

Together with partners, UNHCR is committed to staying and delivering amidst the deteriorating situation and growing displacement, as long as we have access to populations in need. We have activated our emergency response to protect the most vulnerable and assist newly displaced Afghans with life-saving shelter, food, water, and core relief items, both within Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries.

AFS Updates_Sep 1

UNHCR with the help of donors and in partnership with WFP, distributed core relief items to internally displaced families in Kandahar, Helmand and Zabul. © UNHCR Afghanistan

AFS Updates_Aug 30

In collaboration with WFP and DACAAR, UNHCR provided critical protection and assistance to 244 internally displaced families from other provinces in Kabul, Afghanistan. © UNHCR Afghanistan

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UNHCR's mergency response in Herat, Badhgis and Farah provinces in Afghanistan. © UNHCR Afghanistan

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Life-saving assistance - Cash for Protection - was provided to internally displaced individuals in Kandahar, Afghanistan. © UNHCR Afghanistan

AFS Updates_Aug 23

UNHCR’s Emergency program provides life-saving protection and assistance, including core-relief items such as blankets and plastic sheets, to 1,000 internally displaced due to conflict in Kandahar, Afghanistan. © UNHCR Afghanistan


Preventing the spread of COVID-19 remains a priority. To help reduce the risk of as much as possible, UNHCR is providing buckets and jerry cans in its relief kits to displaced families. These supplies are especially important in areas where access to clean water is difficult. UNHCR has also established hand-washing stations and distributed hygiene kits including soap and face masks. In addition, we are providing emergency cash support to help displaced families mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

UNHCR has also undertaken protection monitoring covering 32 provinces in 2021 and as part of the broader UN effort, helped assess the needs of almost 400,000 internally displaced people since the start of the year. But more humanitarian aid is urgently needed. We are ramping up our response, and we need support to protect and assist people forced to flee.


Why do we need to act with urgency?

This latest wave of violence comes on top of recurrent natural disasters such as the current devastating drought. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had far-reaching health impacts as well as socio-economic repercussions. Less than 4 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Afghans already constitute one of the world’s largest refugee populations worldwide. Some 90 per cent of Afghan refugees are hosted in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, with more than 2.2 million registered in the two countries. Another 3 million people were already displaced inside the country before new fighting broke out this year.

Afghanistan’s children are growing up amid this crisis. Some 65 per cent of the Afghan people – in and outside of Afghanistan – are children and young people, anxious about their future in the face of insecurity and economic challenges.

The resilience of Afghan families is being stretched to breaking point. The situation in Afghanistan was already complex, and failure to resolve the current instability will lead to new displacement.


“I hope that the focus on Afghanistan will continue and that it will not go away after a few weeks. UNHCR is here for the long run.”

— Caroline Van Buren, UNHCR Representative in Afghanistan


How can the private sector help in the response?

The role of the private sector in responding to this escalating humanitarian crisis is nothing less than critical. Thanks to the quick action and compassion of our private sector partners, we are already making a difference on the ground. This year so far, UNHCR has provided food, shelter, cash, hygiene, sanitary kits and other lifesaving assistance, together with partners, to more than 230,000 people in Afghanistan. The private sector plays a crucial role in supporting all emergencies, not only in terms of mobilizing financial resources but also in terms of expertise and talents, and flexible funding allows us to respond in a timely and effective way as well as to prepare, prevent and respond to any new emergency within the emergency that may occur in the future.

But needs remain. UNHCR is urgently appealing for $62.8 million, which includes the emergency response for internally displaced families in Afghanistan as well as preparedness measures in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

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To find the latest figures, please visit our Data Portal. You can also read the latest external updates on our Global Focus website.