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Heavy rains hit refugees in Pakistan, but bring hope to drought-ridden Afghanistan

Heavy rains hit refugees in Pakistan, but bring hope to drought-ridden Afghanistan

Heavy rains and strong winds have wreaked havoc in refugee camps in the north and west of Pakistan, prompting the UN refugee agency to distribute emergency assistance to those affected. In Afghanistan, however, the storms are welcomed as a sign that the long years of drought could be over.
21 February 2003
Mohammad Kheil camp in better times. Some 50 Afghan refugee families lost their homes in a recent storm.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb 21 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is rushing to help Afghan refugees hit by heavy rains in northern and western Pakistan, providing them with emergency assistance like shelter, food and blankets. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the storms have brought hope that the long years of drought could be over.

In the western Pakistani province of Baluchistan, strong winds and heavy rains caused a wall to collapse in Latifabad camp on Sunday night, killing a nine-year-old girl and injuring three of her family members. Some 50 Afghan families in Mohammad Kheil camp also lost their homes and tents in the storm.

UNHCR has distributed tents, food, coal and blankets to the affected refugees. The agency has also provided 150 tents and 900 quilts to storm-hit refugees in Chaghi refugee village in Baluchistan's Dalbandin area.

In Chaman, bulldozers have been sent to re-open the road to Roghani camp after flooding cut off access to it on Monday. Full health, water and sanitation services have also been restored at the camp.

The emergency assistance is not limited to refugees. At the request of the authorities in Baluchistan's provincial capital, Quetta, UNHCR has donated five tents to local communities affected by the heavy rains.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan's North West Frontier province, storms have damaged refugees' homes in Jalozai and Akora Khattak camps. At Jalozai, 33 families were affected, with property damage that included six houses and two bakeries. UNHCR will distribute relief assistance there on Monday.

At the same time, the agency is also assessing situation in other camps to see if further assistance is needed.

Despite the hardship generated by the winter storms, the heavy rains that have swept the region over the past months have brought an end to the drought in northern Afghanistan, UN experts have announced.

UN officials in Kabul said that rains have also brought signs of recovery in southern Afghanistan, where reservoirs are filling up in drought-ravaged Kandahar and Helmand provinces, long among the worst affected in the country.

Many of Afghanistan's more than 720,000 displaced persons left their farms and pastures due to the lack of rain over the last five years, crowding into squalid camps to survive.

For the farmers and herders among Afghanistan's internally displaced people, the rains that have wreaked so much havoc elsewhere in the region may help to end their years of poverty and enable them to return to their traditional way of life.