Emergency Aid for Internally Displaced People and Returnees

Violent conflict and periods of extreme drought are repeatedly forcing residents in Afghanistan to leave their home. A severe drought has been affecting many parts of the country since the summer of 2018, with Herat Province particularly affected. In many areas, farmland has been transformed into barren and infertile soil. Farmers’ harvests are failing and livestock herders are losing their animals. Food is becoming increasingly scarce and there are fewer opportunities to earn a living.


According to the World Food Programme (WFP), more than ten million people in Afghanistan are affected by the drought at present and around 3.5 million are facing acute food insecurity. This means that they don’t know whether they will have enough left to eat the following day.

The situation for internally displaced people is particularly precarious. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that around 253,000 people from Herat Province have fled the drought within Afghanistan. In addition, some 243,000 have had to flee their homes due to conflict. The situation is exacerbated by a large number of returnees, mostly from Iran. Food and water are thus becoming ever scarcer.

Many returnees are living in dire conditions in temporary accommodation. The communities affected are overwhelmed and the authorities taking care of the refugees are overstretched. There is a lack of drinking water, food and sanitation equipment. Coping with everyday life is a burden for the refugees and puts them under huge stress. Women and children are at risk of violence and abuse. Around 40 per cent of children under five in Afghanistan are malnourished. Hunger is a constant companion in the country.


The project alleviates the severe crisis facing internally displaced people, returnees and the host communities in Herat Province through the provision of humanitarian aid. Those affected gain access to food, drinking water, emergency shelters, hygiene supplies and psychosocial and medical care.

Measures and Results

The German Federal Foreign Office has commissioned Caritas Internationalis to provide emergency aid for internally displaced people and returnees in Herat Province. In total, around 100,500 people should benefit from the project measures. The project focuses on five fields of activity:

Working towards food security

To combat acute hunger and provide financial support to the internally displaced people in Herat Province, Caritas Internationalis has started a cash-for-work programme for roughly 1,800 families. The participants carry out repairs, maintenance or construction work, which benefits their host communities. The income the refugees earn gives them an opportunity to provide for themselves. Caritas Internationalis also distributes cash to particularly vulnerable families so they can buy food, which also benefits the local economy in the host communities.

Access to clean drinking water

To ensure that more people are able to access clean drinking water, the project is financing the construction of more than 70 deep wells. It is also setting up irrigation systems, and distributing hygiene kits which include soap, toothpaste and chlorine tablets to purify water. Clean drinking water is often only available in small quantities in the host communities. It is mainly needed for cooking and drinking, with hardly any left over for daily hygiene. The new wells will help to improve the hygiene situation and prevent epidemics.

Emergency shelters for families

Many internally displaced people have to sleep in improvised shelters or even outside. Caritas Internationalis is setting up tents and building permanent emergency shelters, significantly improving the housing situation for 500 families.

Psychological support for children

The psychological strain caused by sudden natural disasters or armed conflicts is huge. Children in particular find it difficult to process what they have experienced. Caritas Internationalis is therefore setting up 6,400 ‘child friendly spaces’. These are places where children can get away for a while and forget about their deprivation and the hardships of everyday life.

Medical care for mothers

Caritas Internationalis is providing pre- and post-natal care for 13,500 women. Midwives care for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who have recently given birth and infants up to six months old. Medicine and medical supplies such as dressings, plasters, syringes and disposable gloves are available for the care, which can also be given at home on request. This allows women with limited mobility or who cannot leave the house for cultural reasons to benefit as well.

The midwives are trained in raising awareness of health issues. They advise pregnant and nursing women on recommended vaccinations, breastfeeding practices and on the medically-recommended intervals between pregnancies.

At a glance

Food aid and ensuring access to drinking water, emergency shelters and hygiene supplies for internally displaced people, returnees and host communities
Commissioned by:
German Federal Foreign Office (AA)
Cordaid, Terre des Hommes, Rural Rehabilitation Association for Afghanistan (RRAA)
Implementing organisations:
Caritas International – the relief organisation of Caritas Germany
Programme objective:
To alleviate the severe crisis facing internally displaced people, returnees and the host communities in Herat Province by providing humanitarian aid
Overall term:
June 2019 - June 2021