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Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one. The latest versions of country guidance documents are available at /country-guidance.

Last updated: December 2020

The province of Helmand has approximately 1 446 000 inhabitants, mainly Pashtun. It is situated in southern Afghanistan, bordering the provinces of Nimroz, Farah, Ghor, Daykundi, Uruzgan and Kandahar. In the south, Helmand shares an international border with Pakistan. Helmand is the largest province of Afghanistan. It consists of 15 districts. The province has a significant geo-strategic importance as a section of the Ring Road runs through it, connecting the major population centre Herat City with Kandahar and the capital Kabul. A domestic airport with scheduled passenger service reportedly exists in Lashkargah.

Helmand is one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces, with significant fighting for control between insurgents and Afghan security forces. Since 2018, security forces have conducted several offensive operations to push the Taliban away from certain districts. The Taliban regularly stormed the provincial capital of Lashkargah; until now government defended the city.

Seven of the districts of the province were categorised by LWJ as under Taliban control and the rest of the districts were categorised as contested.

Al Qaeda is allegedly present in Helmand; no presence of ISKP fighters has been reported.

ACLED collected data on 1 650 violent events in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 23.7 incidents per week) of which 1 154 were coded as ‘battles’, 474 as ‘explosions/remote violence’ and 22 as ‘violence against civilians’, with a noticeable decrease in the total number of incidents in the second quarter of 2020.

Examples of incidents include the frequent use of IEDs by insurgents, inflicting considerable casualties among civilians and limiting the freedom of movement in the province. Numerous airstrikes were also reported, including against Al Qaeda fighters, but often generating civilian casualties, for example, in an incident where a wedding procession was accidentally targeted.

UNAMA documented 675 civilian casualties (284 deaths and 391 injured) in 2019, representing 47 civilian victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This was a decrease of 23 % compared to 2018. The leading causes for the civilian casualties were IEDs, followed by airstrikes.

RS ranked Helmand in the category of provinces where the number of civilian casualties was between 76 and 100 for the first quarter of 2020; between 76 and 100 civilian casualties were also recorded in the second quarter.

In the period 1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020, 9 233 persons were displaced from the province of Helmand, almost all relocating within the province. In the same period, 103 persons arrived at Helmand’s district Nahr-e Saraj from Daykundi province.

Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that ‘mere presence’ in the area would not be sufficient to establish a real risk of serious harm under Article 15(c) QD in the province of Helmand, however, indiscriminate violence reaches a high level, and, accordingly, a lower level of individual elements is required to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.

Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.12