At least 244,000 people internally displaced since May, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Internally displaced Afghan families being sheltered at a school in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province [Anadolu Agency]
Afghanistan is seeing an enormous rise in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) since the withdrawal of foreign troops began in May, according to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
At least 244,000 people have been internally displaced since the beginning of May, when the Taliban group began multiple offensives against the Western-backed Afghan government, an increase of more than 300 percent compared with the same period last year.
According to the report, most of the people are fleeing from northeastern and eastern Afghanistan. Nearly all lack adequate shelter, access to medical care and sufficient food, it said.
Many initially fled their homes in rural areas due to fighting, seeking refuge in provincial capitals.
However, the fighting has shifted to urban centres in recent weeks as the Taliban closes in on many of Afghanistan’s larger cities.
In the last few days alone, the resurgent Taliban has assumed control of five Afghan provincial capitals, mainly in the north of the country, including Kunduz, the sixth-largest city in Afghanistan, which fell to the group on Sunday.
As the Taliban advance across Afghanistan shows no sign of slowing, IDP numbers are expected to increase further.
Afghanistan’s internally displaced families at a temporary shelter in Kunar province [Anadolu Agency]
At present, heavy fighting is continuing between the government and Taliban forces around the capitals of Helmand, Kandahar, Herat, and Badakhshan provinces. Attempted peace talks between the two sides held in Qatar last year have made little progress and have now mostly stalled. President Joe Biden has confirmed that United States troops will end their 20-year military invasion in Afghanistan by the end of August, while NATO has already ended its mission in the country. A spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar has told Al Jazeera that there is no agreement on a ceasefire with the Afghan government, and warned against further US intervention in Afghanistan. “Our response is clear. We want a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue,” said Suhail Shaheen, international media spokesman for the Taliban. “If they focus on military strategy and military offensives, then we will have a reaction.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES