Pakistani TV delves into lives of Afghan refugees

News Stories, 30 April 2008

Nauman Ali Khan, TV host, interviewing an Afghan in Peshawar.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 30 (UNHCR) A Pakistan-produced TV programme on Afghan refugees has opened the eyes of both locals and refugees to what life is like in exile.

Titled "Kadwal Jowand" ("The Life of Refugees" in Pashto, a common language along the Pakistan-Afghan border), the weekly half-hour programme was produced by AVT Khyber station and recently ended its highly successful run.

"Refugees have been living in Pakistan for almost three decades, therefore we at AVT Khyber thought that it would be a good idea to do a programme on their lives," said Nauman Ali Khan, the show's young and energetic producer-host. "The majority of the Afghans are of Pashtun ethnicity and we wanted to know how they live, what they do and what issues they face. The aim was to focus on their problems so that something could be done to help them if possible."

The Khyber team visited different refugee settlements in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and interviewed many Afghan refugees, who responded overwhelmingly and shared their problems with no hesitation.

"We used to wait anxiously for this programme," said Jan Muhammad, a 50-year-old Afghan refugee who works as a street vendor and has been living in Pakistan for more than two decades. "I used to enjoy the programme so much that I would watch it again in the repeat telecast."

He added, "It not only highlighted the problems faced by the refugees but also showed our traditions, food, culture and how we celebrate our weddings. I am grateful that Pakistani media is giving so much attention to us."

The show is equally popular among young and female Afghans. "We live in the city and therefore do not have any idea about the lives of refugees living in camps. This programme gave us the opportunity to have an insight into that," said Shukria, a young Afghan teacher.

Pakistanis, too, tuned in regularly. "The programme was the first ever attempt by a local TV channel to highlight the living conditions of Afghan refugees living in the various rural and urban settlements of Pakistan. It helped the local population to have a better understanding of the refugees' problems," said Bashir Ahmad, a Pakistani who works in UNHCR's Protection section in Peshawar.

Host Khan is satisfied with the results: "The response of the Afghans has been great. Now wherever our team goes, we are recognized and welcomed. This idea could not be materialized without the assistance or approval of high management. We have many new ideas and hopefully we will be launching other programmes as well."

AVT Khyber is currently airing a programme called "Afghanistan Ghag", or "Voice of Afghanistan". It is filmed in Afghanistan and focuses on the problems faced by Afghans living in their homeland.

Pakistan is host to more than 2 million registered Afghans, nearly two-thirds of them in NWFP. The majority are ethnic Pashtuns who speak Pashto. Less than half of the registered Afghan population lives in refugee villages where UNHCR supports primary education, basic health care and water and sanitation facilities.

By Rabia Ali in Peshawar, Pakistan




UNHCR country pages

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

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