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Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 5

Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 5

21 September 2001

At a Glance:

  • UNHCR is mounting a massive relief operation for any Afghan civilians fleeing their homeland: 20,000 tents have been ordered to add to UNHCR's contingency stock in Pakistan.
  • This weekend, UNHCR begins the deployment of 25 experienced emergency staff to Pakistan, where they will join more than 150 existing personnel.
  • A 25-truck convoy of UNHCR relief items, including 2,000 tents and other urgently needed items, reaches Quetta in Pakistan's Balochistan Province.
  • UNHCR and Government of Iran teams visit possible camp sites in Khorasan and Sistan-Balochistan provinces.


UNHCR is mounting a massive relief operation for any Afghan civilians fleeing their homeland. The agency has ordered 20,000 tents valued at $1.4 million from suppliers in Pakistan in addition to the more than 9,300 tents already on hand.

With enough plastic tarpaulins in UNHCR's Copenhagen-based emergency stockpile to shelter 1 million people, UNHCR should be able to cope with any large-scale exodus if a movement materializes. Meanwhile, staff have established contacts with aircraft contractors if it becomes necessary to airlift the tarpaulins and other emergency supplies into the region.

Three UNHCR emergency teams are being dispatched to Pakistan beginning on Saturday, with the 25 experienced emergency staff all expected to arrive in the country by the end of the next week, where they will join more than 150 other UNHCR staff members.

On Friday, a 25-truck convoy of UNHCR relief supplies reached Quetta, in Pakistan's Balochistan Province, to deliver 2,000 tents, blankets and other supplies for some of the 15,000 Afghans who have arrived there in the last weeks. A stockpile is also being established there should other new Afghans move into the region.

Pakistan's frontier with Afghanistan remains closed to all Afghans without proper entry permits. UNHCR is in discussions with Pakistan regarding the importance of opening its frontier in the event of a large-scale movement of Afghans fleeing insecurity in their homeland.


UNHCR has been reviewing contingency plans in the event of possible large-scale arrivals of Afghans along the country's western border. Iranian authorities have visited several sites that may be suitable for temporary camps in Khorasan and Sistan-Balochistan provinces.

Tons of relief items are being shifted to forward warehouses along Iran's border with Afghanistan, and dozens of Iranian Red Crescent trucks are now employed in the effort to ensure the deployment of relief items in areas where there may be the greatest need.

No new arrivals have been reported in Iran. The frontier near Dogharoun remains closed, with a strong presence of Iranian border personnel. At the Zabol border crossing near Zahedan, little cross-border movement has been noted.

Given the porous nature of the border, and the fact that an estimated 200,000 Afghans have arrived in the country since the beginning of last year using back-country routes, it is likely that irregular border crossings like those into Pakistan are underway, and that newly arrived Afghans may be sheltered with relatives and friends.


Inside Afghanistan, there are indications that Afghans are continuing to leave towns for their home villages or elsewhere in the mountainous country. Based on sketchy reports from inside the country, every major city has seen some movement of people towards the hills and valleys.

Jalalabad, located between Kabul and the Pakistan frontier at Torkham, reportedly appears largely empty, though some movements of people out of the city continue. In Kandahar, near Afghanistan's south-western frontier with Pakistan's Balochistan Province, movements out of the city are also continuing. At Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north, the situation is said to be calm, but some looting has occurred as security deteriorates. In the western city of Herat, there is a notable increase in tension among the civilian population.