GPC Operations Cell: gpc[at]unhcr.org
Gender-Based Violence: chase[at]unfpa.org
Child Protection: rpouwels[at]unicef.org
Housing, Land and Property: jim.robinson[at]nrc.no
Mine Action: unmasgeneva[at]un.org
The people of Afghanistan are facing a humanitarian, human rights and protection crisis. Despite significant reduction in active hostilities, the crisis continues to be characterized by high-levels of protracted displacement, mine and explosive ordnance contamination, restrictions to freedom of movement, increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV), child labour, early marriage and increased needs for mental health and psychosocial support. Two developments in late 2023 further impacted the protection situation and the concerns and efforts of protection stakeholders. First, the devastating Herat earthquakes in October 2023, which left 275,000 people in need of assistance, increased immediate and long-term protection needs, with women and children comprising the majority of those affected. Second, the Government of Pakistan’s policy to repatriate undocumented foreigners, triggered thousands of Afghans to return in numbers not seen since 2016, putting further strain on services.
Due to restrictive measures or bans imposed by authorities, girls and women face significant challenges in terms of access to basic services, education, participation in communities, freedom of movement, and personal safety concerns, making them more vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and violence. A continuing ban on post-secondary education for girls and women, mahram requirements, and prohibitions on women working in specific businesses, organisations, and sectors limits their participation in their communities, access to services, and undermines their fundamental human rights.
Persistent economic insecurity has forced families to adopt harmful coping mechanisms including taking on debt and has prompted both internal and cross-border movement, sending many children away from home in search of employment, and exposing them to risks. Restrictions on Afghan female aid workers has threatened and reduced access to essential health, and child protection services, while the ban on post primary education for girls – which has affected 1.4 million girls to date – has exacerbated protection risks including child marriage, child labour, and psychological distress among children and their families.
The growing threat of forced evictions from informal settlements and the influx of returnees from Pakistan continues to drive housing, land, and property (HLP) needs. The lack of a legal framework for HLP administration and ambiguity regarding the enforcement of property law since 2021 raises further risks for these vulnerable groups. Women continue to be vulnerable to evictions, with bans on female partners from representing women beneficiaries in court and the refusal of women advocacy licenses impeding progress on women’s HLP rights.
The Protection Cluster in Afghanistan was activated to ensure the coordination of protection interventions in emergencies and to respond to the protection needs of persons affected by conflict and disasters. It is composed of the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Area of Responsibility (AoR), the Child Protection (CP) AoR, the Mine Action (MA) AoR and the Housing, Land, and Property Task Force (HLP TF). The Protection Cluster is led by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and co-coordinated by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).