III Asylum-Seeking and Local Integration: Protection and Assimilation in Exile

Taking the Long View: The Consequences of Displacement for Children in Afghanistan

Craig Loschmann


In 2014 the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide reached a record high of 59.5 million individuals (UNHCR 2015a). Although such a statistic usually brings to mind the plight of international refugees spread across the globe, nearly two-thirds, or 38.2 million individuals, are displaced within their own countries according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC 2015). Moreover, there is a general recognition that in most cases displacement, both externally and internally, is protracted over many years, if not decades, with little chance for immediate resolution (Loescher and Milner 2009). Taking this into consideration, it is not only the short-term effects that should be of sole concern but also the long-term consequences of displacement, it may be especially detrimental to the already fragile development potential of the countries most affected.

C. Loschmann (*)

Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and UNU-MERIT, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

© The Author(s) 2016

M.O. Ensor, E.M. Gozdziak (eds.), Children and Forced Migration, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40691-6_8

Over the years an extensive body of literature has explored the longterm consequences of conflict, with many scholars looking at the destruction of human capital during childhood given its potential to severely reduce welfare throughout one’s life (Akresh and de Walque 2008; Bundervoet et al. 2008; Blattman and Annan 2010; Shemyakina 2011; Akresh et al. 2011; Leon 2012; Justino et al. 2013). Within this field of study, displacement is acknowledged as a clear channel through which war may impact human capital formation (Justino 2011). Yet only recently has there been any scholarly work on the effects of displacement in particular, in contrast to war in general (see Fiala 2009; Fiala 2012; Eder 2013; Oyelere and Wharton 2013; Verwimp and Van Bavel 2013). It is within this still relatively unexplored space that this study aims to make a contribution, using a unique dataset for the understudied (post-) conflict context of Afghanistan.

This chapter investigates the long-term consequences of conflict and displacement in Afghanistan by inquiring how the younger generations within displaced households may fare in their particular circumstances. More specifically, the study compares the differences in outcomes arguably crucial for the healthy development of children between households that have experienced internal displacement and those that have not. As a way to infer future livelihood prospects of the child, these outcomes relate to human capital formation, concentrating on both education and nutrition. The analysis relies on cross-sectional data collected from a household survey across Afghanistan in late 2012; this allowed for exogenous identification of households that were involuntarily displaced because of conflict, insecurity, persecution, or natural disaster. Although data collection was conducted with a purposeful eye towards returning refugees,[1] the prevalence of internally displaced households in the sample allows for further consideration of this uniquely vulnerable group in comparison to those that never moved.

In looking at the effects of displacement, Afghanistan makes for an interesting case study for two fundamental reasons. First, the instability that has plagued the country since the late 1970s has led to one of the worst occurrences of forced migration in recent memory. Internal displacement during this time has ebbed and flowed depending on the general level of insecurity, but more recently a renewed insurgency has resulted once again in a marked increase in the number of people driven from their homes. The latest approximation for end-of-year 2014 puts the number of individuals who are internally displaced above 805,000, a notable rise from a low of 129,000 in 2006 (UNHCR 2015b). Moreover, given the political changes that took place in 2014, including presidential elections along with the drawdown of international forces, there is ample uncertainty about the future stability of the country. This suggests further movement is highly likely and may already be occurring in anticipation of heightened insecurity. Nevertheless, despite the high occurrence of displacement in the present day and the likelihood that it will persist into the future, there still exists an apparent lack of understanding pertaining to the core protection and assistance needs that may help both national and international organizations better serve this at-risk subpopulation (Samuel Hall Consulting 2012).

Related to assistance needs, the second fundamental factor concerns the level of progress in Afghanistan in regard to both education and nutrition—indicators of well-being that specifically relate to children. Even though modest gains have been made since the last evaluation of its kind, the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) for 2011-2012 reports shortcomings when it comes to both school enrollment and food security. For the former, only around a quarter of school-age girls and under half of school-age boys are enrolled in secondary education. For the latter, around one-third of the total population is affected by insufficient caloric intake and nearly one-fifth consumes too little protein, “a deficiency which particularly affects the nutrition of children under five” according to the Central Statistics Organization (CSO 2014, xviii). As the demographic makeup of the country—characterized by one of the youngest age structures in the world—evolves in the coming years, the problems associated with low human capital formation will only complicate an already precarious socioeconomic situation. If Afghanistan is going to strike a path towards recovery after years of instability, greater investment in the future generations, especially those in particularly vulnerable circumstances, is indispensable.

Ultimately, the analysis finds persuasive evidence that displacement leads to greater food insecurity and lower dietary diversity for those households. In particular, members of a displaced household are 17 % less likely to have eaten meat in the week prior to the survey, and those displaced households that had eaten meat ate 30 % less in comparison to their nondisplaced counterparts. Moreover, there is an indication that displacement has a negative effect on school attendance, particularly when differentiating by gender. These last estimates, however, are not robust in their inclusion of location fixed effects. It is possible to deduce then that the dynamics within the communities of displacement are more likely to influence educational outcomes regardless of whether the household is displaced or not. This may be because of the lack of local services within the community (e.g., schools), or perhaps areas receiving the displaced are poverty-stricken in general, resulting in replacement of schooling with income-generating activities by all children.

The remainder of this chapter is structured as follows. The next section outlines the theoretical considerations and past empirical evidence related to the consequences of conflict and displacement, with an emphasis on the education and nutrition of children. An overview of the methodology is then provided, including further information about the dataset along with summary statistics. The empirical models used for estimation are then presented, followed by the empirical results. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief summary and policy discussion concerning potential durable solutions for displaced households.

  • [1] The household survey was originally collected to evaluate UNHCR’s shelter assistance programimplemented across Afghanistan. For more information, see the full report (MGSoG and SamuelHall Consulting 2013).
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