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Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 16

Emergency Updates, 10 October 2001

At a Glance:

  • Security situation in Pakistan seriously hampers relief efforts
  • UNHCR airlifts into Pakistan scheduled to resume, security permitting
  • Site assessment, field teams head to Nehbandan, Iran
  • High Commissioner Lubbers addresses the Organisation of Islamic Conference

Security Situation in Pakistan

The security situation in Pakistan, particularly in the border areas, continues to pose a serious obstacle to the humanitarian effort underway in the region.

Work on prospective refugee campsites in both the Quetta and the Peshawar areas was on hold for a third day Wednesday, following violent demonstrations that took place on Monday and Tuesday. The fragile security situation has drastically limited the freedom of movement of UNHCR international staff, with supplies being ferried mostly by local contractors.

The offices of several international and local relief agencies were reportedly attacked and ransacked on Monday and Tuesday in Hangu, Landi Kotal, and Bajuar agency around Peshawar.

The string of attacks and continuing security incidents highlight the difficulties for local and international relief agencies to operate safely in the tribal areas, where the government has identified possible sites for temporary refugee settlements.

UNHCR's office in Quetta sustained relatively minor damage in Monday's demonstrations. UNHCR has met with the Home Secretary and the police in Quetta. Authorities expressed their regrets about the incident and assured that they would beef up security at all UN offices in Quetta, as well as providing security for staff travelling to the field.

Despite the security situation, UNHCR continues to build up stockpiles of relief items in the border areas. More than 3,000 tents from Karachi were dispatched to Peshawar and Quetta on Tuesday. The shipment brings UNHCR's stocks in Peshawar to 15,000 tents enough to house up to 80,000 people. Tents, plastic sheets and blankets are being trucked daily from Peshawar to border crossing points. In Quetta, there are now some 5,000 tents out of the 30,000 needed to accommodate the first 150,000 refugees.

Relief Flights Resume

UNHCR plans to resume airlifting of relief supplies from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Pakistan tomorrow (Thursday). The Thursday flight will carry 10,000 plastic sheets and registration materials to Peshawar. Subsequent flights are planned to bring blankets and other relief items to Pakistan. Thursday's flight is the first of up to 10 flights planned over the next two weeks, security permitting. The aircraft will shuttle between Copenhagen and alternately Peshawar and Quetta the two key locations in Pakistan where UNHCR is building up a stock of relief supplies.


A UNHCR field team has been dispatched to its new base in Nehbandan, some 400 kilometres south of Mashad in Khorasan province near the Afghanistan border. The team yesterday accompanied two trucks of relief items sent to Nehbandan to increase the local emergency stockpile there.

A water assessment mission also headed to Nehbandan Tuesday to evaluate potential camp sites in the area. The mission included water engineers from the German organization THW, accompanied by UNHCR staff and government officials.

High Commissioner in Qatar

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers was scheduled to address the foreign ministers' meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference today (Wednesday) in Qatar. His address will focus on humanitarian efforts for refugees and the displaced in the Afghanistan region.




Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Afghan Refugees in Iran

At a recent conference in Geneva, the international community endorsed a "solutions strategy" for millions of Afghan refugees and those returning to Afghanistan after years in exile. The plan, drawn up between Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and UNHCR, aims to support repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries.

It will benefit refugee returnees to Afghanistan as well as 3 million Afghan refugees, including 1 million in Iran and 1.7 million in Pakistan.

Many of the refugees in Iran have been living there for more than three decades. This photo set captures the lives of some of these exiles, who wait in hope of a lasting solution to their situation.

Afghan Refugees in Iran

UNHCR helps tens of thousands in north-west Pakistan

In north-west Pakistan, UNHCR is working with the government and other UN agencies to assist tens of thousands of people who have left their homes due to a security operation against insurgent groups. Since the military push began in January, more than one hundred thousand residents of the Khyber Agency, which is in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan, have fled the conflict zone. Since mid-March there has been a surge of people arriving at the Jalozai camp, near the city of Peshawar. At Jalozai, Khyber residents are registered and provided with humanitarian supplies and food aid. Though most opt to stay with friends and relatives in nearby towns and cities, those without resources are provided with a tent in a newly-created settlement in Jalozai.

UNHCR helps tens of thousands in north-west Pakistan

Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Helping the HostsPlay video

Pakistan: Helping the Hosts

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Balochistan province have access to schools and basic services, but the cost is not easy to bear.
Afghanistan HomecomingPlay video

Afghanistan Homecoming

Since 2002, UNHCR has helped nearly 4 million Afghan refugees to return home from Pakistan. Recently, Ahmed Shafiq made the journey with his family after 15 years as a refugee. This is his story.