Economic recovery for displaced key to Afghans’ future

June 15, 2022

Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of universal poverty with more than half of the population dependent on life-saving and essential humanitarian assistance.


Afghanistan is confronting an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with a very real risk of systemic collapse and human catastrophe that threatens many of the development gains of the last 20 years. UNDP and UNHCR are working together for greater impact.

The country is teetering on the brink of universal poverty with more than half of the population dependent on life-saving and essential humanitarian assistance. Without support, tens of thousands of children are at risk of dying from malnutrition as basic health services have collapsed.

“Sometimes we get vegetables, but mostly we are living on bread and tea,” said Sayed Mohammed, who has returned home to the village of Marja with his wife and children after six years of displacement. “All the children are hungry.”

The worst drought in two decades is pushing nine million people closer to famine. Fazl Mohammed has also just returned to Marja. “If there is no water, we’ll have to go to Iran or Pakistan,” he said. “Or we will just dig graves for ourselves.”

Violence, fear, and deprivation continue to drive people out of their homes. Some 3.4 million people have been displaced within Afghanistan, a tenth of the population. Many of them live in makeshift settlements under difficult conditions without access to services.

Beyond the country’s borders, Afghans make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Some three-quarters of Afghan refugees are hosted in Iran and Pakistan, with more than 2.2 million registered in the two countries. This has stretched the capacity of communities hosting them.

Yet Afghan communities are finding pathways to recovery. Support from international and local agencies, and the private sector are helping to create conditions for the sustainable return and reintegration of displaced people.

A coordinated response

Swift humanitarian action is essential to saving lives, and keeping local economies going is fundamental to ensuring that people still have livelihoods and feel that they have a future.

It is crucial that humanitarian and development agencies deliver a coordinated response. UNDP and UNHCR are working together to provide for basic human needs, ensuring basic services and keeping the economy functioning inside Afghanistan and for countries hosting refugees.

Together, we are addressing gaps in protection, provision of essential services, community-based livelihoods and local economic activities, disaster and climate-resilient response, community planning and social cohesion.

Combining efforts at the community level across multiple sectors with and for all communities, we work on the reintegration of displaced people in priority regions of Afghanistan with partners including civil society, community leaders, UN agencies and local authorities.

In Herat province, UNDP and UNHCR have launched a programme for the reintegration of displaced people, enhancing access to basic services, creating employment opportunities, supporting small businesses, assisting women-led micro-business, and rehabilitating community infrastructure.

Residents of Sayed Abad Village in Herat requested a protection wall to prevent the annual flooding from further damaging properties and farmland. The village has many returnees. A cash-for-work project to build a 250-metre long wall has the double benefit of providing local livelihoods.

Our joint response brings together the expertise of both agencies across the humanitarian and development sphere. More than 480,000 people have benefited from the construction of facilities such as schools, clinics, shelters, and community centres built by UNHCR. UNDP will provide some with renewable energy.

Complementing humanitarian interventions, UNDP supports communities with grants to micro-enterprises, cash-for-work, regenerating infrastructure, and temporary basic incomes for elderly and disabled people through its flagship ‘Abadei’ programme.

Women and girls in Afghanistan are paying a heavy price. Once again they are being shut out of offices and classrooms. Every two hours, a mother dies from preventable childbirth complications. Half of all Afghan women have experienced gender-based violence.

Targeted support to women-led informal small and informal businesses is a priority for both agencies, as is creating market opportunities and economic inclusion for women.

Supporting durable solutions in Iran and Pakistan

Channelling additional investment to neighbouring countries of Iran and Pakistan hosting Afghan refugees, UNDP and UNHCR are supporting the policies of the host governments, benefitting both host communities and refugees pending their return to Afghanistan.

The Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration and Assistance to Host Countries (SSAR), provides coordinated support, including for refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and host communities.

Drawing on their engagement within the SSAR Support Platform through its Core Group, UNHCR and UNDP are developing proposals that meet immediate needs and provide pathways to stability, resilience and recovery in both in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. 

Humanitarian and development programmes for Afghans inside and outside the country remain critically underfunded. Support is urgently needed that simultaneously meets the needs of those displaced, builds resilience of host communities, and supports local economic development.

UNDP and UNHCR are committed to staying and delivering in Afghanistan and beyond.


For more information on the SSAR Support Platform, please visit