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Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 12

Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 12

2 October 2001

At a Glance:

  • Second airlift to Pakistan arrives in Peshawar
  • Aid workers struggle to gather enough tents for a possible exodus
  • Build-up of staff continues in Pakistan


The second UNHCR airlift into Pakistan arrived in Peshawar on Tuesday, bringing 250 rolls of plastic sheeting and 21,000 blankets. The first UNHCR relief flight into Iran has been delayed by 24 hours and it is now expected to arrive in Iran's north-eastern city of Mashad in Wednesday. The DC-8 will carry 40 tons of tents. The 408 tents are part of a donation of some 1,200 tents provided by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development. A second flight into Mashad is planned for the following days with the remaining tents, as well as 350 rolls of plastic sheeting and cotton tarpaulins. One roll of plastic sheeting measures 4 metres by 60 metres and can be cut to size as needed for shelter and protection from the elements.

Agencies preposition tents in Pakistan/Iran

Aid workers in Pakistan and Iran see the delivery of enough tents and plastic sheeting as absolutely crucial in the event of a large influx from Afghanistan. UNHCR contingency plans speak of a possible influx of up to 1.5 million people into the neighbouring countries, primarily Pakistan and Iran. But relief officials believe that a sudden arrival of even a fraction of that number could place a huge strain on aid agencies.

Some 73,000 tents are needed to give shelter to the first 350,000 refugees. Ultimately, however, several times that many may be required. UNHCR officials are currently involved in a frantic effort to buy and order as many tents as possible. The world's stock of available tents is limited, as is the production capacity.

More UNHCR staff on their way

More UNHCR emergency staff arrive daily in Pakistan. They are being deployed in Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta to support the emergency operation. UNHCR today is sending the first team of specialists to the Khyber agency in north-western Pakistan to begin work on a new refugee camp that will be used to accommodate Afghan refugees in the event of a major influx. Provincial authorities have given security clearances for the team, consisting of eight site planners and water and sanitation engineers from UNHCR, the Danish Aid Agency for Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), MSF, the Norwegian Council of Churches and the Afghan Construction and Logistics Unit (ALCU). The first site to be developed could receive up to 10,000 refugees.

Last week, four teams of United Nations, Pakistan government and NGO staff visited six tribal areas to inspect 75 sites along the border with Afghanistan. The teams found only 23 were suitable for use. Four of the sites, which meet our primary requirements, will be established simultaneously in the Khyber agency, Kurram, North Waziristan and Bajaur, all tribal areas along the Afghanistan border. UNHCR is continuing discussions with the authorities in identifying more sites.


In all, UNHCR has so far received more than $25 million in direct pledges and in-kind contributions from several governments in response to its appeal for $268 million to tackle a possible large-scale emergency in and around Afghanistan. Total contributions include a pledge of $7 million announced by the Italian government in Islamabad today. Italy's contribution is the largest single contribution received so far against UNHCR's appeal.

In the short term, UNHCR urgently needs $30 million to be able to handle a possible influx of the first 100,000 people.