Multiple wars have ravaged Afghanistan. Rivers are polluted, irrigation systems ruined, and livestock depleted. Education and health care systems have collapsed. Afghans throughout the country have faced steadily rising unemployment while regular attacks and explosions have forced many hundreds to flee their homes each week. A 2016 Human Rights Watch report notes “At least a quarter of Afghan children between ages 5 and 14 work for a living to help their families. Many are employed in jobs that can result in illness, injury, or even death due to hazardous working conditions and poor enforcement of safety and health standards.”
An estimated 213,000 Afghan people made it to Europe in 2015. Some 2.7 million Afghans have been exiled for decades. In Pakistan 1.6 million found shelter and 950,000 fled to Iran.
Now, the Afghans in Europe, Pakistan and Iran are being sent back to Afghanistan to join the 1.8 million people who are already internally displaced refugees. Afghanistan’s internally displaced refugee population is likely to double, with estimates that as many as 3 million people will be living in tent-like shelters. Bracing themselves for a cold winter, many will lack fuel, blankets, food, jobs and potable water. Already, Afghanistan has the highest rate of infant mortality in the world, —112 deaths for every 1,000 live births. 97,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. The children in refugee camps who do survive often become their families ‘main income earner.