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Afghanistan: heavy fighting uproots 150,000+

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: heavy fighting uproots 150,000+

10 October 2000

Heavy fighting between the Taliban and the opposition Northern Alliance in north-eastern Afghanistan has uprooted some 150,000 people in the past weeks. The fall of Taloqun, the headquarters of the Northern Alliance, on the 6th of September, forced most of the town's 100,000 residents to flee their homes. Although some of the residents are reported to have returned to their homes, an estimated 60,000 remain displaced. With more fighting reported, the situation of the displaced remains fluid, and further uprooted people continue to arrive in various locations along the border with Tajikistan.

So far, no Afghan refugees have fled into Tajikistan. However, the intensified fighting in Badakshan, the Northern Alliance's stronghold, has raised fears of a further displacement into Tajikistan.

Tajikistan has responded favourably to UNHCR's request that the borders be kept open to allow the free flow of refugees, and the authorities have identified reception centres at the border to screen Afghans who are forced to seek asylum in Tajikistan. The authorities in the border region of Gorniy Badakshan in Tajikistan's border province have also begun to prepare sites to accommodate new arrivals. UNHCR has begun moving and pre-positioning essential supplies such as blankets (15,000) and plastic sheeting (1,000) in Tajikistan. A senior UNHCR emergency officer has been sent to Tajikistan to help coordinate relief activities there.

Already 15,000 Afghans - mostly women and children who fled the fighting in the north-east of Afghanistan - have arrived in Pakistan. In the past week, they have been arriving at the rate of 50 families - 250 people - per day, crossing mainly at two border points in the north - Torkhaim and Shah-i-Salim, near Chitral.

The vast majority of the new arrivals are Dari-speaking people from the new frontlines of Afghanistan's long-running conflict. Some 10,000 are camped out in the open in Jalozai, near Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's Northwest Province, awaiting verification by the authorities. UNHCR is planning to move them by Thursday to the New Shamshatoo refugee camp. Pakistan hosts 1.2 million Afghan refugees.

Inside Afghanistan, UN and aid agencies are providing both food and non-food items to civilians displaced by the conflict. Some 24,000 people are receiving food assistance. Tents, blankets and plastic sheeting have also been distributed. But some families are running out of food, and prices of their livestock are declining. The weather is deteriorating in the north-east and the recent heavy rain and snow in higher elevation have sent temperatures plummeting. In some locations, fighting has impeded access to the displaced.