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Afghan IDPs Suffering Due to Government Inaction, Donor Fatigue

The number of internally displaced Afghans has doubled in the last three years, up from 500,000 in 2013, pointing to a sharp increase in people leaving their homes due to violence

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Afghan boy shepherds walk their sheep near temporary housing in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 30, 2016. Image source: AP
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  • One-point-two million Afghans are internally displaced due to conflict according to an Amnesty International report released in May, 2016
  • IDPs today lack basic essentials, including food and shelter, human rights groups say
  • Provincial governments that were required to help IDPs in their areas either ignored them or made the situation worse, according to SIGAR

The Afghan government has been unable to help some of its most vulnerable citizens, those displaced internally by violence, due to resistance from provincial governments, lack of capacity in key ministries, and corruption, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In an audit letter sent to the U.S. State Department and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) this week, SIGAR also pointed out the lack of coordination in non-governmental organizations trying to help internally displaced persons (IDPs).

One-point-two million Afghans are internally displaced due to conflict according to an Amnesty International report released in May.

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That number has doubled in the last three years, up from 500,000 in 2013, pointing to a sharp increase in people leaving their homes due to violence.

“Even after fleeing their homes to seek safety, increasing numbers of Afghans are languishing in appalling conditions in their own country, and fighting for their survival with no end in sight,” Champa Patel, South Asia director at Amnesty International said.

 In this May 30, 2016 photo, Afghan internally displaced family are seen at their temporary home in a camp for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan. Image source: AP
In this May 30, 2016 photo, Afghan internally displaced family are seen at their temporary home in a camp for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan. Image source: AP

Afghanistan developed a National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons in 2013, which was supposed to address both the urgent and long-term needs of IDPs and their host communities. The situation for the IDPs, however, has “dramatically worsened” since then, according to Amnesty.

Donor fatigue

With the international community also gradually losing interest in Afghanistan, and other crises around the world catching the attention of donors, aid to the country has dropped significantly. IDPs today lack basic essentials, including food and shelter, human rights groups say.

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On top of that, provincial governments that were required to help IDPs in their areas either ignored them or made the situation worse, according to SIGAR.

“[A]ccording to State, some provincial governments have not accepted that IDPs have a right to stay in their provinces and were more inclined to regard the IDPs as economic migrants who do not have the same rights, such as the right to food, water, adequate shelter, and health care, as other Afghans,” SIGAR’s letter said, adding that in some cases these governments demolished IDP settlements claiming they were supposed to be temporary.

 Management failures

The letter also pointed out that the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, MORR, which was supposed to distribute pieces of land to IDPs have so far only allocated a little over 50,000 plots, in response to half-a-million applications.

“MORR did not have the budget and lacked proper planning and procedures” to manage a medium- to long-term response to IDPs, according to SIGAR.

However, Sayed Huseen Alimi Balkhi, the Afghan minister of refugees and returnees, said his government was working hard to help the IDPs, despite difficult conditions.

“Based on the National Policy for the Resettlement of IDPs, they should be resettled, but in the past two years intensification of war has prevented the Afghan government from taking effective steps for resettlement of IDPs,” he said.

He added the Afghan government had worked hard for the rehabilitation of IDPs in Herat, Nangarhar, and Kabul provinces and work continued on shelter, and other infrastructure. (VOA)

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Number Of Uninsured Children In The U.S. Rises to 3.9 Mn: Report

The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling.

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Abigail Gabriel, 8, hugs her mother, Erin, as a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services official talks about the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP, during a news conference, Dec. 7, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Abigail had health care under Medicaid. VOA

The number of uninsured children in the United States has increased for the first time in nearly a decade, placing it at 3.9 million in 2017, according to a report Thursday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Nationally, the number of uninsured children increased by an estimated 276,000 in 2017, from a historic low of 4.7 percent in 2016 to 5 percent last year. Experts say about 75 percent of the newly uninsured children are clustered in states that did not expand Medicaid such as Florida, Texas and Georgia.

Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Florida and other states could take federal funding to help pay for health coverage for nearly 900,000 people, but the Republican-led Legislature in Florida voted against it. The vast majority of states have already expanded Medicaid and increased the number of residents eligible for its coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director for Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, has written the report for the last eight years and said she’s never seen the rates of uninsured children go up in all 50 states, which happened last year.

Probiotics, Uninsured
Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country.

Better economy, low unemployment

She said that what is perhaps most concerning is that the uninsured rate among children increased despite an improving economy and low unemployment rate that allowed more children to get private coverage through their parents.

The study blamed the increases on the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to prompt an overhaul of publicly funded health care. There were major efforts to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid, and the children’s CHIP insurance funding also ran out and hung in the balance for months before Congress extended it.

“There was a lot of confusion among families as to whether these public coverage sources were available,” Alker said.

At the same time, the Trump administration slashed funding for advertising and enrollment counselors to help sign people up for these health insurance programs. The country’s enrollment decline was not just in Medicaid and CHIP, but also in Obamacare, or the federal marketplace where parents can purchase private health insurance and often receive a subsidy to help pay for it.

The report noted that many of the children who do not have health insurance are eligible for coverage but just aren’t enrolled.

Central American Migrants, democratic party,Uninsured
Central American migrants begin their morning trek as part of a thousands-strong caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, as they face the Pico de Orizaba volcano upon departure from Cordoba, Mexico, Monday. VOA

‘More of a fluctuation’

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the figures were statistically insignificant.

He did agree that there were dips in Medicaid enrollment and through the Obamacare marketplace, but noted there’s no enrollment cutoff for Medicaid, meaning families can sign up their children year-round.

“It’s really more of a fluctuation. There’s no policy driver there,” he said, saying he didn’t think marketing cuts had any impact.

In Florida, the uninsured rate went from 288,000 in 2016 to 325,000 in 2017.

Refugees, asylum, uNINSURED
Honduran migrant Genesis Belen Mejia Flores, 7, waves an American flag at U.S. border control helicopters flying overhead near the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants, in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country, and also has had the highest number of enrollees purchasing insurance through the Obamacare federal marketplace. However, Medicaid expansion in Florida is likely off the table for this upcoming legislative session. Incoming Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is against it. His opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, campaigned heavily on his support to expand Medicaid coverage for more residents.

Also Read: Produce Industry In The U.S. To Step Up Produce Safety Due To Recent Outbreaks

The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling, even if their children were eligible for health coverage. “We think it’s really this national unwelcome mat regarding public coverage,” Alker said. (VOA)