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The high number of IDPs in Afghanistan: the background and factors

Published Date: June 4, 2016

In a recent report on internally displaced peoples (IDP), Amnesty International has said that the number of IDPs in Afghanistan has almost tripled in 2015 compared to 2013.

The report of Amnesty International under the name of “My Children Will Die This Winter” was released on May 31, 2016. The report shows that in 2013, almost 500 thousand people were internally displaced in Afghanistan while due to worsened security situation this number has risen to 1.2 million peoples in 2016.

The other part of the report focuses on the worsened condition of IDPs and states that the 2014 IDP policy is yet to be implemented and these displaced people are faced with various problems.

Here you would read our analysis about the beginning of internal displacement process and various stages that it has gone through, the current situation and the main reasons behind the high number of IDPs in the country.


The Background of IDPs

Throughout the history, due to various factors (war, economy, natural disasters) people are internally displaced in Afghanistan; but the number of them was not very high at those stages.

During the soviet invasion of Afghanistan, people were forced to migrate to the neighbouring countries or moved to Kabul from various regions of the country. Generally, the migrants who had gone to the neighbouring countries were people who were opposed with the system, government and ideology of that time and were mostly government’s oppositions. On the other hand, the people who had moved to Kabul from various parts of the country were either low level employees of the government or government officials or people who had to stay in Kabul due to various other reasons.

The exact number of the IDPs at that time is not available; but yet according to two experts before the “Saur” coup d’état the population of Kabul was 750 thousand people; but after the Soviet attack on Afghanistan, in order to avoid war damages, some people moved to Kabul from remote areas of the country. This way, Kabul’s population was doubled (around one and a half million people). Besides that people in other provinces of the country also moved to the centres’ of the provinces and an overall two million people were internally displaced in the country. (See Chart-1) 

Chart-1: Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Afghanistan (1984-2015)


 Source: the migration unit of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR)

In the chart above, the blue line shows the estimated statistics of IDPs in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and the red line presents the number of IDPs based on the statistic of the UNHCR from 1992 till 2015.


Statistics of IDPs in Afghanistan

In 1990s, most of the people lived in the cities and far from battlefield. In 2001, in the aftermath of the primary attack of the US on Afghanistan the number of IDPs in the country reached 1.2 million; but coincides with that after the maintenance of security in the country the number of IDPs were reduced to 650 thousand people; and this number further decreased until 2006. At that time in a large extent security was maintained in the country; but after 2007, when insecurity increased in some provinces of the country, the numbers of IDPs in the country were also increased. In 2007, there were close to 153718 IDPs in Afghanistan but in 2015 the number rose to 916435. [1] But according to the statistics of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, there were 854310 IDPs in Afghanistan in 2015[2]. (See Chart-1)

Given the security situation in 1394, the statistics of UNHCR and Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations about IDPs seems less than the exact numbers. That is why the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has criticized these statistics and has said that in 2015 (1393-1394), there were 1.257 million IDPs in Afghanistan which is five times more than the number of IDPs in 2009. In 2015, due to emergence of ISIS, the fall of Kunduz and natural disasters, the number of IDPs in the country increased. Amnesty International agrees with the statistics of AIHRC, hence it has relied on these statistics in 2016.


Factors behind internal displacement in the country

Since 2009, the main reason behind internal displacement is insecurity in the country but yet there are also other effective factors in this issue as well, which are:

  • Insecurity: due to the worsen insecurity; the number IDPs have increased in the country. For instance if one compares the statistics of IDPs in 2001, 2006, 2009 and 2015, one will find out that except in 2006, the number of IDPs is augmented in other years; because in 2001 due to American airstrikes and attacks the number of IDPs in this year was 1.2 million. Following the improvement of security situation until 2006, the number of IDPs decreased in the country. There were 129310 IDPs in the country in 2006; but with the intensification of insecurity in Afghanistan after 2006, the number of IDPs also increased in the country year-after-year and reached 297129 people in 2009. In 2015, this number reached to 916435 people and according to one other source this number was around 1.257 millions.
  • Armed conflict and the emergence of ISIS: the number of IDPs is very high in those provinces that are insecure. For instance, according to the media advisor of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations Hafizullah Miakhail, “20 thousand families in Helmand, more than 15 thousand families in Nangarhar, 20 thousand families in Kunduz and 8 thousand families in Kabul are internally displaced due to insecurity.” [3]. According to another international organization, last year most of IDPs were from the southern Afghanistan then from western Afghanistan and finally from eastern Afghanistan. [4]
  • Unemployment and jobs in the government: another factor behind the increasing number of IDPs in Afghanistan is that people comes to major cities of the country particularly in Kabul Jalalabad, Kandahar and Herat because of unemployment and for jobs in the government; because there is more job opportunities in the cities compared to villages.
  • Natural disasters: last year, some families were forced to be internally displaced due to various natural disasters such as floods and landslides. It should be noted that there is no exact statistics about natural disaster’s role in internal displacements in the country; but there are statistics that shows links between natural disasters and the number of IDPs. For instances in July 2015, besides the insecurity in the country, natural disasters has caused displacement of 1157 families in the country. [5] In addition, in “Saur” 1394 dozens of families were displaced due to landslides in Badakhshan. In July 2015, floods also forced more than 350 families to be internally displaced in this province. [6]

The end

[1]  You can find details here:

UNHCR, Afghanistan, Conflict-induced internal displacement monthly update, May 2015

[2]  For further information visit the link bellow:

[3] Read Omid Zahirmal’s article here:

[4] These are the statistics of the time before the collapse of Kunduz and from January to July 2015. According to these statistics there were 223278 IDPs in the southern provinces, 220434 IDPs in western provinces, 148489 IDPs in eastern provinces and 169958 IDPs in central provinces. Read more here:

[5] Read more in here:

[6] See the link bellow:

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