AFGHANISTAN: Displaced Pakistani families hosted in Kunar Province
JALALABAD, 9 November 2009 (IRIN) - Military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwestern Pakistan have forced hundreds of households to abandon their homes and seek refuge in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
A joint assessment by the UNHCR and the Afghan government in October indicated that 440 families - mostly from the FATA’s Bajaur Agency - are living in two districts in Kunar Province, but no formal settlement or camp has been set up for them; almost all have been accommodated by local Afghan communities.
“They are primarily being hosted and supported by their relatives and Afghan families and communities,” Nader Farhad, a UNHCR spokesman in Kabul, told IRIN.
UNHCR said it had distributed tents, blankets, jerry cans, plastic sheets, warm clothes, soap and sleeping mats to 289 displaced families, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was planning to deliver food to 290 families in the near future.
A mobile health clinic had also been supplied by Kunar health department with the help of UN agencies.
“UNHCR stands ready to assist the vulnerable displaced as has been the case for the remaining population [in Afghanistan] whose assessment has just been completed,” said Farhad.
Government officials said food and non-food assistance had also been distributed to the displaced families by the NATO-led Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Over the past few months up to 3,000 Pakistani households have sought temporary settlement in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar, local officials said.
“Most of them have returned to Pakistan but hundreds of these families are still living here,” Mohammad Idrees Gharwal, a spokesman for the governor of Kunar, told IRIN.
UNHCR does not consider the Pakistani displaced families conventional refugees: “In view of historical, socio-economic, and geographic factors, it is expected that most displaced families would return home when fighting subsides,” said UNHCR’s Farhad.
According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."
The conflict in Pakistan’s South Waziristan and FATA has displaced tens of thousands over the past few months, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs
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