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Joint Assessment - Eastern Region Returnee Crisis (27 September - 20 October 2016)

Subject/Objective: 
In mid-July 2016, the rate of returnees (both registered and undocumented) spontaneously returning to Eastern Afghanistan from Pakistan began to increase dramatically, from an average arrival of 10-15 and 38 families a day respectively between January and June to as many as 2,160 and 5,200 a day by the beginning of October. Overall, some 234,544 undocumented refugees and 362,750 registered refugees are estimated to have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan1 so far this year2 – more than 100,000 in the last three months alone – as a result of a drastic deterioration of the protection/political space in Pakistan with increasing incidents of detention, forced evictions, police raids and harassment. The vast majority of undocumented returnees have indicated a preference to return to Nangarhar province due to limited ties to their areas of origin (many of those returning are second or third generation refugees) and cultural similarities between Nangarhar and border areas of Pakistan, while almost three quarters of registered refugees are returning to five provinces: Nangarhar, Kabul, Baghlan, Kunduz and Logar. By the end of the year, IOM and UNHCR estimate that more than 300,000 undocumented refugees and 380,000 registered refugees will have crossed over into Afghanistan from Pakistan. Nangarhar has already received a large number of conflict-induced IDPs in recent years, so this influx of returning refugees further exacerbates problems caused by forced displacement.
Methodology: 
In coordination with humanitarian partners in the Eastern Region, OCHA planned and organised an emergency household level assessment through the HCT endorsed common assessment tool, the HEAT, aimed at capturing the scale and scope of the returnee crisis in Nangarhar province, given reports that large numbers of undocumented returnees were arriving in this area without having received any assistance. Based on IOM data from the border that collected information on districts of intended return, the assessment focused on 6 districts in Nangarhar (Khogyani, Surkhrod, Behsud, Jalalabad, Rodat, and Batikot), 2 districts in Laghman (Mihtarlam and Qarghayi) and 1 district in Kunar (Asadabad). The Nangarhar districts were divided into 23 sectors, 7 sectors in Laghman and 3 sectors in Kunar (see Annex A: Assessment Sectors Map for further details). The subdivided sector model aimed to prevent overlap in assessment coverage and breakdown districts into more easily manageable geographic areas for individual teams to assess, thereby allowing them to methodically work through one community at a time. OCHA and NRC facilitated an assessment planning meeting on 26 September which included a HEAT training for enumerators participating in the assessment. This included a review of the revised HEAT tool (Ver 2, Annex B) which had been updated to reflect information requirements pertaining to returnee populations (in addition to conflict induced IDPs and natural disaster-affected populations already covered), the geographical breakdown of the targeted assessment areas, and assessment methodology of finding and verifying returnee households in targeted districts. During the meeting, enumerators were organised into teams and assigned sectors of coverage as per the geographical breakdown. Teams were assisted by Maliks (community elders) and local community leadership with support from DoRR and DoA officials to identify returnee households in the communities. This process was supported by the use of IOM’s registration lists from the Zero Point screening process, as a means to locate and cross-check households (based on stated districts of intended return). OCHA also liaised with Provincial authorities to ensure a common understanding of the process and manage expectations for potential response options. Initially, 65 staff from 26 organisations and 30 vehicles committed to support the assessment, but six organisations with 15 staff and 7 vehicles pulled out of the assessment. This resulted in an extension of the planned assessment period, from an initial timeframe of 10 days to just over 3 weeks. The assessment commenced on 27 September 2016 with 10 teams in Jalalabad, Rodat, Behsud, Surkhrod and Khogyani districts of Nangarhar province, 5 teams in Laghman and 3 teams in Kunar province. The initially planned district of Batikot was not accessible at the time. OCHA’s Assessment Coordinator followed up with each assessment team leader in all three provinces twice a day (in the morning and afternoon), provided instructions and feedback on the use of the form, supported daily planning and troubleshoot operational and coordination issues. The Assessment Coordinator also hired and directly managed data clerks to ensure assessment data was entered on a real-time basis.
Key findings: 
Overall, 5,954 families were assessed through the HEAT tool, of which 5,021 were undocumented returnee families, 700 were registered refugee families and 220 were conflict-induced IDPs families.  332 returnee households were found to be staying in open areas, 206 households are using tents, and 3,201 households are renting. 1,339 interviewed households were being hosted and 765 were staying in owned houses/compounds.  Over 50% of assessed households (approximately 2,500 families) reported to have used a food security coping mechanism (such as skipping meals, taking smaller portions and/or sending children to work) in the 7 days prior to the interview. 69% of assessed returnee households reported to have no food stocks at all (over 2,700 families) and 26% reported to have less than a week of food stocks (over 1,000 families).  45% of assessed households reported to have constrained access to safe water (including being hindered by physical access, such as distance, security, and 18% reported constraints by the host community).  While 66% of households reported to have access to hand pumps, many of those families have limited access and the proportion reporting to have community driven constraints indicates a strain on community level water supply due to influxes of returnee households.  5% of assessed households indicated they intended to move on to another district or province – the reality is that many more are actually moving.  With increased rental prices, limited access to livelihoods and issues with land tenure, secondary movement should be expected to be much higher than indicated in the intention question. This is already evidenced in the discrepancies between IOM intention data and the numbers of undocumented returnee households found by assessment teams.  Integration issues are likely to be problematic for returnee households in high return areas, particularly considering land tenure and unsustainable rental prices.
Sample size: 
5,954 families
Assessment Report: 
Assessment Questionnaire: 
Publicly Available
Assessment Data: 
Available on Request
Webspace(s): 
Assessment Date(s): 
27 Sep 2016 to 20 Oct 2016
Status: 
Report completed
Unit(s) of Measurement: 
Households
Collection Method(s): 
Structured Interview
Population Type(s): 
IDPs
Returnees
Leading/Coordinating Organization(s): 
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Participating Organization(s): 
Norwegian Refugee Council
Danish Refugee Council
Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees
International Rescue Committee
International Medical Corps
Save The Children
Relief International
Solidarites International
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Organization for Migration
Agency for Assistance and Development of Afghanistan
Terre des hommes Foundation
People in Need
New Consultancy and Relief Organization
WHH Foundation
Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development
Location(s): 
Nangarhar
Kunar
Laghman
Theme(s): 
Internally Displaced People (IDPs)
Refugees and Returnees