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Afghanistan region: UNHCR prepares

Briefing notes

Afghanistan region: UNHCR prepares

18 September 2001

According to various sources, population movements out of Afghanistan's principal cities of Kabul and Kandahar are continuing, but transportation is reportedly difficult to obtain. Over the past days, tens of thousands of people have been on the move, mainly travelling from cities into rural areas of the mountainous country. There are also reports from Kabul that some food commodities are becoming even more scarce than usual as residents purchase available remaining stocks.

The number of Afghans leaving Kabul and Jalalabad is reportedly decreasing. UNHCR staff report that new Taliban checkpoints have sprung up along the road from Jalalabad to the Torkham border crossing. Taliban guards are reportedly allowing only Afghans bearing passports to cross into Pakistan, which severely limits the movements of people into Pakistan.

In Afghanistan's western city of Herat, the atmosphere is tense and residents are reportedly confused about developments in the country because of the general lack of information. People are so impoverished that even radios and batteries are in short supply and television is banned. The estimated 200,000 displaced Afghans living in six temporary camps around Herat fortunately appear to be staying in place. These Afghans are among the poorest of the some 3 million who have been surviving on UN aid over the past year throughout war- and drought-ravaged Afghanistan.

In south-western Afghanistan's main city of Kandahar, residents continue to leave, mainly for surrounding rural areas. UNHCR was informed by Pakistan's government on Monday that 5,000 Afghans are at the Chaman border crossing near the provincial capital of Quetta. UNHCR is having discussions with the authorities and hopes the Afghans will be allowed in. UNHCR is asking the authorities to allow any new arrivals to be sheltered in existing camp facilities where adequate water and other facilities can be more quickly established. As an emergency measure, UNHCR is today sending 2,000 tents to Quetta from its stocks in Peshawar. UNHCR has a total of 9,300 tents in Pakistan, enough for more than 50,000 people.

UNHCR has sent several experienced emergency managers to Pakistan, where emergency planning meetings are underway this week. In all, we have more than 500 staff in Afghanistan and bordering countries. This includes more than 50 international staff.