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Afghanistan: pressing need for continued international donor support

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: pressing need for continued international donor support

21 March 2002

More than 80,000 Afghans have returned home from Pakistan in just three weeks under an assisted repatriation programme organized by UNHCR, Afghan authorities and the government of Pakistan. That means we have already surpassed the average annual repatriation rate since 1993.

It also signifies a real vote of confidence by Afghans in the future of their country, and we're extremely pleased that we're able to provide some help to those who - despite the enormous challenges they will face - have made the difficult choice to go home. They deserve all the help they can get.

But the enormous - and unexpected - popularity of this programme in just three short weeks also signals the pressing need for continued high levels of international donor support. As we mentioned last week, the large number of voluntary returns is already stretching our available resources. Now, with the arrival of warmer weather, we will likely be seeing hundreds of thousands more Afghans choosing to go home to rebuild their lives. We need to have everything in place to help them make that new start and to ensure that their return is sustainable. But given the very high rate of early returns, we're becoming increasingly concerned over the pace of funds provided and will be discussing this with donors next week.

In all, we need $271 million this year to help a projected 1.2 million refugees and internally displaced people go home. So far, we've received $119 million - or 44 percent of requirements - and we've already committed 93 percent of that. We still have a shortfall of $152 million. Since the vast majority of returnees are expected to go home between now and October, we urge donors to come forward with their contributions now.

We need funds, for example, to provide shelter materials like beams, doors, tools and other supplies. That component alone is $40 million and given the level of destruction in Afghanistan, is sorely needed.