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Afghanistan:heavy rain floods Herat encampments

Briefing notes

Afghanistan:heavy rain floods Herat encampments

15 January 2002

Heavy rain has flooded makeshift encampments in Afghanistan's Herat region which hosts hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people. A 5-year-old boy was killed by the collapsing roof of his hut in Shandaye camp, 20 km east of Herat. Shandaye is a second largest camp in western Afghanistan, accommodating some 25,000 people who fled drought-stricken provinces in central Afghanistan. The first rainfall in more than three years brought the hope for an end to Afghanistan's worst drought in living memory, but the downpour also caused considerable damage.

Aid agencies in Herat scrambled to provide additional shelter items for the displaced people in camps. UNHCR immediately delivered 100 tents, 400 blankets, 240 plastic sheeting and 40 shovels to IOM and the Danish Afghan Committee for distribution in camps. There are an estimated 300,000 displaced people in six camps in western Afghanistan. The majority of the people are farmers from Ghor and Badghis provinces.

The chief of UNHCR's Afghan operations, Filippo Grandi, visited Herat this weekend and met with Mr. Ismail Khan, the governor of Herat. The governor agreed to UNHCR's proposal to gradually shift assistance focus from the IDP camps to return areas, while ensuring assistance to any new IDPs. The governor emphasized the importance of not only assisting refugees and displaced people to return, but also helping them stay put once they're back in their home villages.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is increasingly concerned about a situation developing just inside Pakistan's south-western border with Afghanistan where some 13,000 desperate Afghans are stuck at the doorstep of the Killi Faizo transit camp, unable to enter Pakistan. An estimated 6,000 Afghans arrived since last Thursday, joining the 7,000 who had been camping at the border camp for more than a week. We are very concerned that more of the tens of thousands of Afghans living in makeshift camps just inside Afghanistan at Spin Boldak may also try to enter Pakistan due to the lack of assistance and the deteriorating security situation there.

UNHCR is involved in intense discussions with the Pakistani government in an effort to persuade them to allow the desperate people in.