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Nearly 4,000 families flee Pakistan for Kunar

Crisis in Afghanistan, 7 October 2008

UNHCR Kabul Briefing Note, 29 September 2008

Kabul, 29 September (UNHCR) More than 3,900 families, or around 20,000 individuals, have fled fighting in Bajaur Agency of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), into Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan since summer.

A total of 3,964 families have sought refuge in the districts of Shigal (2,120 families), Marawara (748), Dangam (706) and some 390 families in other districts of Kunar province.

In the last two weeks alone, over 600 Pakistani families have fled into Afghanistan. While the vast majority of them are living with their relatives and friends, there are already some 200 families who live in the open air.

The humanitarian response is coordinated and closely monitored through the provincial government in close cooperation with UN agencies and international organizations. UNHCR coordinates the response of the international community and other non-governmental organizations to ensure the effective delivery of assistance, that the basic needs of the displaced families are properly addressed and to maximize the use of limited available resources.

So far, UNHCR has provided relief materials such as plastic sheets, blankets, jerry cans and lanterns to the families in Marawara and Dangam. It is also funding a mobile clinic to visit five days a week in Shigal and Marawara. Agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) and UNICEF have also distributed relief items to the refugees in various parts of Kunar province.

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

Plastic sheets have also been given to the host families to help them cope with the added burden. UNHCR is considering providing support to the host families in improving their current accommodation in order to provide basic comfort to the displaced.

UNHCR anticipates that the majority of the displaced families will return to Pakistan as soon as the security situation in Bajaur improves.

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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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