Mounting security concerns in Afghanistan as three aid workers are killed
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, June 23 (UNHCR) - Three staff members of a UNHCR partner organization, the Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan (DHSA), were killed in northern Afghanistan's Jowzjan province on Tuesday when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. The Afghan aid workers were on their way to visit a project for former refugees who have now returned to their homes in Afghanistan.
"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic incident which cost the lives of our three humanitarian aid workers, who were working tirelessly for vulnerable Afghan returnees," said Abdul Qahar Mujadidi, acting head of DHSA operations in northern Balkh province.
Mohammad Nader Farhad, the refugee agency's spokesman in Kabul, said "UNHCR deeply regrets this loss of life. We have communicated our condolences to DHSA and the victims' families."
This was the second security incident involving UNHCR in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours. In the first incident, which took place Monday afternoon on the road from Lagham to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, vehicles carrying three UNHCR staff and one employee of the World Food Programme were overtaking a military convoy when one of the military vehicles exploded.
Further details were not immediately available, but none of the UN staff were injured and all were able to return to their base without further incident. There has been a significant increase in the number of reported security incidents in Afghanistan since the beginning of May.
DHSA has been working as a UNHCR partner since 2006. The NGO is mainly involved in the provision of shelter for returnees in the northern provinces of Afghanistan.
Since 2002, UNHCR has helped some 188,000 families build their homes in Afghanistan. In 2009, we plan to help build an estimated 10,000 housing units for vulnerable returnee families, benefitting more than 48,600 people. Shelter assistance includes beams, door and window frames and tools.
More than 5 million Afghans have returned home since the fall of the Taliban regime, the largest voluntary repatriation organized by UNHCR in the last 10 years. Last year, some 278,500 former Afghan refugees returned to their country, by far the largest voluntary refugee return movement anywhere in the world during 2008.
At the same time, there are still more than 2.8 million Afghan refugees, mainly in Pakistan and Iran. According to UNHCR's figures, one out of every four refugees in the world is from Afghanistan.