Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Families Flee IS in Northern Afghanistan

Aid agencies under pressure to provide food, shelter and education to those seeking refuge.
By Qamaruddin Poya Aziz

 

 

 

    

 

Officials in Jowzjan province warn that local services are struggling to cope with an influx of thousands of displaced people (IDPs) escaping fighting in Darzab and Qush Tepa districts.

Insurgents affiliated to Islamic State (IS) have gained ground in parts of the northern province.   Clashes between them and the Taleban have further threatened local communities, with around 11,000 families fleeing to the centre of the province.

Jowzjan provincial council head Babur Ishchi said that although humanitarian efforts were underway, the extent of the crisis was stretching local resources.

“Our primary concern is for displaced people in the cold weather, who are living in tents without any proper shelter,” he said.

IDPs described fleeing in the face of insurgent violence, with militants abducting and raping women and setting fire to villagers’ houses.

One man, Kashmir, said that the threats posed by both the Taleban and IS-affiliated groups had forced him to flee his home in Darzab.

“During the fighting, I lost my father and some of my family members,” he said. “I had to leave my house and seek shelter in the centre, which is relatively peaceful,” he said.

Having left all their possessions behind, Kashmir said that he and his family were in desperate need of help.

“We need food, drinking water and a warm place for our children to live. The aid which has been provided doesn’t begin to meet our needs or solve our problems,” he concluded.

Women from the areas under IS attack described widespread sexual violence.  

Rahila (not her real name) fled her village of Sardara in Darzab district to seek refuge in central Jowzjan. She told IWPR that fighters from the groups affiliated with IS forced their way into people’s homes to kill the men and abduct the young women.

“IS entered our home and killed my sister’s husband, then they took my sister with them and raped her and now she lives with them, along with dozens of other girls,” Rahila said, adding that although this had happened all over the district, people felt too ashamed to discuss it.

Sayed Talib Sadat, acting director of the provincial department of refugees and repatriation, said that nearly 12,000 families from Aqcha, Qush Tepa and Darzab districts had been displaced to the centre of Jowzjan.

Of these, around 7,500 families had been provided with aid including cash, food and warm clothing for their children as well as basic household items such as tents, kitchen utensils and first aid kits.

Sadat said that around 4,000 families had been helped by donor organisations and the rest by humanitarian assistance from government agencies.

“A survey of the remaining displaced people is ongoing and once it is finished we will distribute aid, together with donor organisations, and we’ll provide them with whatever assistance we can.”

Sadat said that around a dozen aid agencies including the United Nations had been co-operating with his department, providing displaced people with food and drinking water as well as money.

ACTED, one of the donor organisations, said that they were trying to ensure that displaced children did not miss out on their education.   

Amanullah, the acting director of ACTED’s provincial office, said that they had managed to accommodate nearly 2,000 students.

 “In addition to building schools for needy and displaced people, we also donated 707 blankets and 101 tents,” he continued, adding that they planned to distribute more non-food aid, in the near future.

Mohammad Reza Ghafouri, the spokesman for the provincial governor, said that he believed the situation was now under control.

Some needy families had received a three-month supply of food, and the process of distribution was ongoing.

“Mobile health clinics have been built for the displaced people in order to prevent the spread of disease,” he continued, adding that they would try to provide literacy courses for children in the near future.

This report was produced under IWPR’s Supporting Investigative Reporting in Local Media and Strengthening Civil Society across Afghanistan initiative, funded by the British Embassy Kabul.