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Closing the loop: Afghanistan: Herat Earthquakes and Afghan Refugee/Migrant Returns (Nov 2023)

Research and resources for humanitarian response in real time

Research and resources to guide humanitarian response are not always at our fingertips at the moment we need them most – when a crisis hits. Working with our partners, we want to support the sector with at-a-glance information and links that can play a small part in ‘closing the loop’ between research and practice in real time.


Compounding decades of conflict, recurrent disasters and under-development, communities in western Afghanistan were struck by a series of devastating earthquakes in October 2023, killing more than 1400 people and destroying more than 30,000 homes. These shocks shattered already fragile coping capacities in this part of the country.

In addition, on 3 October, a deadline of 1 November was set for undocumented foreign nationals to leave Pakistan, affecting more than 1.4 million Afghans living in Pakistan. UNHCR and IOM have reported that more than 120,000 people have since returned to Afghanistan, with more expected in the coming months. Recent returnees, many of whom have not lived in the country for years (or indeed, ever) and who lack local support networks, are adding strain to already-overwhelmed humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.

 “These earthquakes have struck some of the most vulnerable communities in Afghanistan – they have already been grappling with decades of conflicts and under-development. The affected communities have little resilience to cope with the multiple and simultaneous shocks, and especially with the cold winter coming, when households have limited food resources.” – Daniel Peter Endres, acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, October 2023

“The recent surge of Afghans returning from Pakistan has overwhelmed our resources and the fragile infrastructure in Afghanistan. People arrive in a terrible condition, having often sold what little they had to pay for the journey. We are deeply concerned about their well-being as well as the strain it places on our already stretched humanitarian efforts.” – Neil Turner, Country Director Afghanistan, Norwegian Refugee Council, October 2023