Some 15,000 people have fled the fighting between government troops and Taliban militants in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz Province. Both the government and international aid organizations seem overwhelmed.
Hundreds of refugees have entered the northern Afghan city of Kunduz - the capital of the eponymous province - in the past couple of days. Only a few of them have been able to bring more than what they need to survive. Now they wait under the scorching sun for the fighting between government forces and the extremists to come to an end, and for things to go back to normal. Despite the adversity, many children wander about and play.
A week ago, Nazgul was forced to leave her home in the district of Gul Tepa. Along with her three children and handicapped husband she came to Kunduz in hopes of finding security. "We are hungry and homeless," she said.
"There is nothing left to eat or drink where we come from. Now that our homes have been destroyed, the only things left there are rifle fire, ashes and dust." As Nazgul speaks, one can hear the sound of explosions in the background. While the city of Kunduz remains relatively safe, it is difficult to ignore the fighting taking place just outside the city walls.
A call for help
According to Afghan tribal leaders, more than 3,000 families have fled the fighting in Kunduz. Those villagers residing in the embattled areas were urged by Afghan authorities to leave, thus increasing the number of internally displaced to an estimated 15,000.
Security forces confirmed there is a flow of refugees in the region, but failed to comment on what is to become of them. The volatile security situation and the fighting between the rebels and the security forces are taking a toll on the population, said Mohammad Yusuf Ayubi, provincial council chief in Kunduz, adding that his council is trying to get aid from both the government in Kabul as well as international organizations.
However, aid relief for the internally displaced has yet to arrive. Whoever fails to find an accommodation must either camp outside or sleep in a tent. But people need more than just financial support as Habibullah Muhtasham, chief of the Qala-i-zal Muhtasham district, pointed out. "Those in charge of international aid organizations should provide protection to the internally displaced people as well as offer them long-term perspectives," he said, adding that this was the only way to stop the refugee crisis.
The crisis is being facilitated by the poor state of agriculture. "The harvest season is about to begin, but the crops are withering," said Mohammad Amir. "We simply cannot afford to stay way from the fields," said the 35-year-old farmer, who was also forced to flee Gul Tepa with his family. He hopes that the government can soon root out the Taliban.
"Afghan authorities usually bank on the support of international aid organizations when it comes to helping the internally displaced people," said Udo Stolte, head of the aid organization Shelter Now in Germany. The agency organizes the distribution of aid and has projects in Kabul and Kandahar, but not in Kunduz.
International organizations have scaled back the number of aid workers in Afghanistan because of last year's drawdown of international troops and the ensuing deterioration of the security situation in the northern part of the country. "It's very likely that the flow of refugees will continue towards Kabul. Then we will be able to see what people need most, and generate the necessary financial resources in order to react accordingly," said Stolte.
Last month, the Taliban began their spring offensive by attacking military posts in Kunduz. They had advanced as far as the outskirts of Kunduz before the Afghan government managed to send reinforcements to the province, while US forces provided air support. The attacks are still continuing as the informal talks held between the government and the Taliban in Qatar last weekend failed to produce an agreement.