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Afghanistan: UNHCR's winter assistance focused on the vulnerable

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: UNHCR's winter assistance focused on the vulnerable

25 February 2005

More than 40,000 families - about 200,000 people - have received additional UNHCR assistance to help them cope with the unusually harsh winter conditions in Afghanistan since December.

Our winter aid effort has been focused on particularly vulnerable people among those Afghans who have recently returned to their country. The help provided varies according to region and circumstances. But the core package includes blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, lanterns, soap and disposable diapers for families with young children. In some instances, food was also supplied, as was a cash grant.

In Kabul, UNHCR is assisting the Ministry of Refugees' efforts to provide shelter to people living in open-air settlements in Chaman Hozori and Chaman Babrak. UNHCR has carried out repair and winterization work on one of the government buildings the families were moved into. We are also providing sanitation assistance as well as access to health care through our mobile health clinics, which are currently offering medical services to many of Kabul's street children and their families.

Recently, UNHCR provided additional winter assistance to 500 families in Ghor province, in the north-west of Afghanistan. In Herat, the refugee agency has handed out winter supplies to 515 families of internally displaced people currently residing in the city.

More than three-quarters of a million Afghan refugees returned home last year from Pakistan and Iran with UNHCR's assistance. Almost a third of them (32 per cent) went back to the Kabul area. Repatriation from Pakistan was interrupted for the winter and will resume on 7 March. Repatriation from Iran is ongoing, although the number of refugees choosing to repatriate in winter is low. UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme to Afghanistan is entering its fourth year. In all, more than 3.5 million Afghans have returned home - mainly from Pakistan and Iran - since repatriation started in April 2002.