KABUL -- The number of Afghans who have fled their homes for safer parts of their country has hit a record high, the UN said November 30, according to AFP.
As of the end of November, more than a half-million Afghans -- 515,800 -- had been internally displaced by fighting, surpassing last year's record of 471,000, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The figure has more than doubled since 2014, pointing to a sharp increase in the number of people leaving their homes due to escalating violence.
"I am concerned these record figures show not just an alarming number of new [internally displaced persons] IDPs, but a longer-term crisis where increasing numbers of families in Afghanistan are facing prolonged displacement," Mark Bowden, UN humanitarian co-ordinator, said in a statement.
Combined with the more than 600,000 Afghan refugees who have returned from neighbouring Pakistan this year, the mass migration to safer urban areas is draining local resources, UNOCHA said.
Massive internal displacement has plagued Afghanistan for years, beginning with the Soviet invasion in 1979. In 2001, the Taliban launched a bloody insurgency that has since spread to previously safer parts of the country.
The violence has been driven in particular in the past two years by the Taliban's repeated assaults on Afghan cities, which put more civilians in the cross-hairs.
According to UN data, a record 198 out of 399 districts of Afghanistan are now reporting conflict-induced displacement, and for the first time, all 34 provinces are hosting IDPs.
The UNOCHA said it had received 54% of the US $152m (Rs. 15.9 billion) in emergency funding it needs to address the immediate needs of internally displaced people in Afghanistan.
The funding is crucial to ensure that "vulnerable displaced families not just receive life-saving, emergency humanitarian assistance, but support that delivers a real opportunity for IDPs to rebuild their lives for the long term," Bowden said.
The Afghan government recognises the dire straits facing its displaced citizens, Deputy Refugees and Repatriations Minister Ahmad Wali Hakimi told Salaam Times.
President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an inventory of available government-owned land, Hakimi said, adding, "The goal will be to set up a resettlement programme for refugees similar to a pilot scheme in Herat for internally displaced people."
The government intends to give returning refugees land plots for future houses and "to supply water and electricity", Hakimi said.
"The Afghan government fully supports refugees and will give them a better life," he concluded.
[Izazullah contributed to this report.]