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Initial Rapid Needs Assessment: Undocumented Returnees, Nangarhar, Eastern Region, Afghanistan (September 2016)


An initial rapid needs assessment took place on 5 September in Nangarhar province, Eastern Afghanistan, across the six highest intended return districts (as indicated at the border) to identify the main dimensions of the unfolding humanitarian and returnee crisis. In total, 49 focus groups discussions were held in 31 villages across the six districts, including community elders (maliks), undocumented returnee families and host communities, in addition to select site visits to local health facilities.


Forty eight villages across six districts (Surkhrod, Behsud, Jalalabad City, Batikot, Khogyani, Rodat) with the highest rate of expected undocumented returns as recorded by IOM were selected for an initial rapid assessment, with plans for two teams per district composed of three members each, with the majority including one female member. In the event that any of the eight villages were found to be inaccessible an additional four villages were identified—see pp. 8-11 for further details.

Focus group discussions with community elders (maliks) and heads of households from undocumented returnee families formed the basis of the methodology and were augmented by key informant interviews with a small sample of health clinic managers and hospital directors from across the affected districts, and selected site visits to local health facilities. Based on the figures provided by IOM, it was intended that the assessment would yield qualitative data indicative of around 2,000 undocumented returnee families in order to identify the main characteristics of the unfolding crisis and enable a strategic response.

Principales constatations: 

The humanitarian condition of the approximately 130,000 undocumented refugees who have already returned is pronounced, and likely to rapidly deteriorate. Already the burdens upon host communities are significant, overstretching available services and utilities. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence from group discussions conducted within this rapid assessment strongly suggests that after the Eid al-Adha holidays in September, the rate of return will significantly increase, with extended families from those already having returned likely to repeat their journey, exacerbating the current situation. IOM projections suggest a further 270,000 undocumented refugees will return in the coming four months. The effects of twice as many more returns do not augur well.

The spontaneity of return has led to undocumented refugees gravitating towards specific areas surrounding Jalalabad, such as Chamtala and Khalis Family. With further numbers of undocumented refugees returning, the potential of ‘slums’ forming is high. Such heavily populated urban informal settlements, characterized by substandard shelter and squalor, bring a heavy humanitarian and development burden; the risks of which might be averted, or at least reduced, through a timely, coherent and strategic response.

This rapid assessment has highlighted which humanitarian issues appear prima facie most urgent and should prompt for household-level or sectoral assessments (such as shelter, nutrition, and protection), or even immediate service provision (such as health outreach or civil documentation). It has also indicated that aspects of the current response to ‘spontaneously’ returning undocumented refugees may also be less relevant than other pressing humanitarian needs observed upon settlement—for example, the requirement for non-food items (e.g. kitchen kits) was not pronounced as the majority of families were reported to have transported these assets when returning. Other needs, however, such as shelter, sanitation and water supply are not currently tended to.

At the same time, to ensure effective decision-making for the response, a robust displacement tracking system will need to be established at the border crossing itself, including registration, documentation and communication. Moreover, strategic decisions will need to be made regarding the humanitarian and development response to issues of shelter and secure tenure.


1. Household-level emergency assessments or sector-specific assessments should now be prioritized in areas of reported high return. In particular, shelter, WASH and food provision must be coordinated urgently.

2. Health outreach and nutritional responses should urgently assess areas of reported high return. Moreover, the need for improved screening of both health and nutrition issues in returning refugees at the border crossing in Torkham would be invaluable in staving off a potential health crisis.

3. Information management systems must be operationalised—in particular, displacement tracking, but also issues such as price monitoring and integration indexing.

4. Given the scale of the affected-population and the improbability of return, early recovery considerations should be considered at the outset. Transitional shelter approaches and the need for durable solutions should be promoted wherever possible.

Taille de l’échantillon : 
41 focus group discussions in 31 villages
Questionnaire d'évaluation: 
Available on Request
Données d'évaluation: 
Available on Request
Date(s) de l'évaluation: 
05 sep 2016

Niveau de représentation

État de l'évaluation: 
Report completed
Unité de Mesure: 
Méthode de collecte: 
Key Informant Interview
Focus group discussion
Type de population: 
Agence(s) chef de file: 
Bureau de la coordination des affaires humanitaires des Nations Unies
Organisation(s) participante(s): 
Agency for Assistance and Development of Afghanistan
Afghan Planning Agency
Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees
Danish Refugee Council
International Medical Corps
Organisation internationale pour les migrations
Comité international de secours
New Consultancy and Relief Organization
Conseil norvégien pour les réfugiés
Save The Children
Terre des hommes Foundation
Programme Alimentaire Mondial
Coordination Inter-Clusters
Evaluation des Besoins