Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 16

Emergency Updates, 10 October 2001

At a Glance:

Security Situation in Pakistan

The security situation in Pakistan, particularly in the border areas, continues to pose a serious obstacle to the humanitarian effort underway in the region.

Work on prospective refugee campsites in both the Quetta and the Peshawar areas was on hold for a third day Wednesday, following violent demonstrations that took place on Monday and Tuesday. The fragile security situation has drastically limited the freedom of movement of UNHCR international staff, with supplies being ferried mostly by local contractors.

The offices of several international and local relief agencies were reportedly attacked and ransacked on Monday and Tuesday in Hangu, Landi Kotal, and Bajuar agency around Peshawar.

The string of attacks and continuing security incidents highlight the difficulties for local and international relief agencies to operate safely in the tribal areas, where the government has identified possible sites for temporary refugee settlements.

UNHCR's office in Quetta sustained relatively minor damage in Monday's demonstrations. UNHCR has met with the Home Secretary and the police in Quetta. Authorities expressed their regrets about the incident and assured that they would beef up security at all UN offices in Quetta, as well as providing security for staff travelling to the field.

Despite the security situation, UNHCR continues to build up stockpiles of relief items in the border areas. More than 3,000 tents from Karachi were dispatched to Peshawar and Quetta on Tuesday. The shipment brings UNHCR's stocks in Peshawar to 15,000 tents enough to house up to 80,000 people. Tents, plastic sheets and blankets are being trucked daily from Peshawar to border crossing points. In Quetta, there are now some 5,000 tents out of the 30,000 needed to accommodate the first 150,000 refugees.

Relief Flights Resume

UNHCR plans to resume airlifting of relief supplies from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Pakistan tomorrow (Thursday). The Thursday flight will carry 10,000 plastic sheets and registration materials to Peshawar. Subsequent flights are planned to bring blankets and other relief items to Pakistan. Thursday's flight is the first of up to 10 flights planned over the next two weeks, security permitting. The aircraft will shuttle between Copenhagen and alternately Peshawar and Quetta the two key locations in Pakistan where UNHCR is building up a stock of relief supplies.

Iran

A UNHCR field team has been dispatched to its new base in Nehbandan, some 400 kilometres south of Mashad in Khorasan province near the Afghanistan border. The team yesterday accompanied two trucks of relief items sent to Nehbandan to increase the local emergency stockpile there.

A water assessment mission also headed to Nehbandan Tuesday to evaluate potential camp sites in the area. The mission included water engineers from the German organization THW, accompanied by UNHCR staff and government officials.

High Commissioner in Qatar

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers was scheduled to address the foreign ministers' meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference today (Wednesday) in Qatar. His address will focus on humanitarian efforts for refugees and the displaced in the Afghanistan region.