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Some 20,000 people flee Pakistan's tribal areas for Afghanistan

News Stories, 29 September 2008

© Abdul Majeed Goraya
Families leaving Pakistan's tribal areas as fighting intensifies in the country's north-west. Photo courtesy of and

KABUL, Afghanistan, September 29 (UNHCR) Some 20,000 people have fled fighting in north-western Pakistan in recent months and sought refuge in eastern Afghanistan, where aid agencies have rushed supplies to help them and their host families.

The nearly 4,000 families started arriving in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province as fighting intensified across the border in Bajaur Agency in Pakistan's tribal areas over the summer.

They include 2,120 families in Kunar's Shigal district, 748 families in Marawara district, 706 in Dangam district and smaller numbers in other districts. About 70 percent of the recent arrivals in Shigal, Marawara and Dangam are Pakistanis.

"In the last two weeks alone, over 600 Pakistani families have fled into Afghanistan," said Mohammed Nadir Farhad, the UN refugee agency's spokesman at a press briefing in Kabul. "The majority are living with their relatives and friends, but there are some 200 families who live in the open air."

Kunar's provincial authorities are working closely with the UN and other international organisations to coordinate and monitor the humanitarian response closely. Coordination is important to ensure that aid is delivered effectively, to maximise the use of limited resources while meeting the basic needs of the displaced families.

UNHCR has so far provided plastic sheets, blankets, jerry cans, lanterns and other supplies to the families in Marawara and Dangam. It is also funding a mobile clinic to visit Shigal and Marawara five days a week. Relief items have also been distributed by agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) and UNICEF.

In addition, food packages have been provided by the provincial government, the World Food Programme, ICRC and ARCS. UNICEF has distributed medical kits while the World Health Organisation has started a polio campaign in three affected districts.

To help the host families cope with the added burden, UNHCR is considering additional support to improve their current accommodation. The agency believes that the majority of the displaced families will return to Pakistan as soon as the situation in the tribal areas improves.




UNHCR country pages

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

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

Home Without Land

Land is hot property in mountainous Afghanistan, and the lack of it is a major reason Afghans in exile do not want to return.

Although landless returnees are eligible for the Afghan government's land allocation scheme, demand far outstrips supply. By the end of 2007, the authorities were developing 14 settlements countrywide. Nearly 300,000 returnee families had applied for land, out of which 61,000 had been selected and 3,400 families had actually moved into the settlements.

Desperate returnees sometimes have to camp in open areas or squat in abandoned buildings. Others occupy disputed land where aid agencies are not allowed to build permanent structures such as wells or schools.

One resilient community planted itself in a desert area called Tangi in eastern Afghanistan. With help from the Afghan private sector and the international community, water, homes, mosques and other facilities have sprouted – proof that the right investment and commitment can turn barren land into the good earth.

Posted on 31 January 2008

Home Without Land

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