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Guterres spotlights needs of Afghan refugees in Pakistan; urges donor help

News Stories, 1 May 2014

© UNHCR/M.Azhar/May 2014
High Commissioner António Guterres helps open a new training centre for refugee and local women in Loralai district.

LORALAI DISTRICT, Pakistan, May 1 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today called on the international community to continue supporting Afghan refugees and needy Pakistanis in host communities.

Guterres, on the last day of a three-day visit to Pakistan, also stressed the importance of ensuring continued protection for Afghan refugees in Pakistan amid political and security problems in their homeland. Pakistan currently hosts 1.6 million refugees, more than any other host country in the world.

On a visit to Loralai district of south-west Pakistan's Balochistan province, Guterres paid tribute to the generosity of Pakistan in providing refuge to so many Afghan civilians over the past three-and-a-half decades. "This is something that should be recognized by the international community, and the best way to do that is to support the most vulnerable Pakistani communities in the poorer areas of the country, who have hosted so many Afghans."

The High Commissioner told the local authorities that UNHCR would continue to support displaced Afghans in Balochistan through the refugee-affected and hosting areas (RAHA) initiative. The initiative is part of the 2012 Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), which is aimed at finding solutions for Afghan refugees in the region over several years.

Ten UN agencies, including UNHCR, and other partners are working with the government to implement RAHA projects that improve access to basic services for Pakistanis and the refugees they are hosting. In Balochistan province, the primary focus of these projects is on education, health and social welfare for around 60,000 people.

"Pakistan has generously hosted the world's largest refugee population for so many years, and it is important to mobilize more support from the international community to sustain this great effort and to fund RAHA projects such as these," Guterres stressed.

With the support from Pakistan, UNHCR manages three refugee villages in Loralai. During his visit to the district on Thursday, Guterres and Pakistan's Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch reopened a state school for girls that was renovated with UNHCR funds. "Pakistan needs more female doctors and teachers, and this is only possible through more support for girls' education," Guterres stressed.

The High Commissioner also visited a health centre and a small carpet factory, which have both benefitted from the RAHA programme, and he took part in a ground-breaking ceremony for a US$1.2 million vocational/technical training centre for refugee and local women in the remote Loralai region. This will help people become self-sufficient.

Guterres also visited Katwai Refugee Village, one of three in Loralai. He spoke to refugees about their needs and concerns. Minister Baloch welcomed the visit and said it would "help to highlight the protracted Afghan refugee situation in the province and its impact on the host communities and socio-economic infrastructure."

While in Pakistan, the High Commissioner also launched several projects under the 2012 Solutions Strategy. He held talks on the situation of the refugees and their hosts with President Mamnoon Hussain and other top officials. Guterres celebrated his 65th birthday with UNHCR staff on Wednesday in Islamabad.

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UNHCR country pages

Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

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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