NEWS from the National Council of Churches, USA
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Updated September 29, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – Church World Service is preparing to shelter tens of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing cities or trying to enter Pakistan to escape an expected military action from the United States in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.  The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has reported 25,000 new arrivals in Pakistan since September 11.

It is estimated that about half of the population of Kabul (the capital of Afghanistan) Kandahar and Jalalabad have already fled.

Prior to this crisis there were already one million internally displaced persons in Afghanistan.  Since September 2000, an estimated 180,000 new refugees have fled into Pakistan.  The cause: war-related internal displacement and a three-year drought, and the United Nations had already declared the situation in Afghanistan as the worse humanitarian crisis in the world.  Drought has affected at least 12 million Afghans.

Now the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) estimates that an additional 1 to 2  million new refugees will attempt to cross into Pakistan and those who cannot will become internally displaced persons.

"A very serious humanitarian crisis is in the making," said CWS Pakistan-Afghanistan Director Marvin Parvez, who has recently been meeting with partners in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore, Pakistan.

Church World Service offices in Pakistan and partner programs in Afghanistan remain open with over 300 staff and volunteers. CWS, with headquarters in New York City, is the global humanitarian service and witness ministry of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches and its 36 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations.

Even before the current situation, The World Food Program has stopped supplying food to Afghanistan due to the severe deteriorating security situation and the lack of transportation. WFP only has in its warehouses in Afghanistan food supplies for 3-5 weeks; according to a BBC report, an average Afghan family only has food rations for 2-4 days. This stoppage, shortage and soaring prices of food may also accelerate the uprooting and displacement of more Afghans towards Pakistan.

The emerging security risks and exodus of international staff have decreased the capacity of many organizations to respond. Many aid workers are now worried about the lack of non-governmental organizations able to assist in the present crisis.

After consultations with staff, partners and fellow members of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) International network, CWS plans to respond to the situation for new arrivals in Pakistan with a large shelter assistance program, Parvez reports.

CWS plans to provide shelter kits to 15,000 families (comprising some 105,000 persons) who are new arrivals in the border cities of Quetta and Peshawar, Pakistan, and internally displaced persons arriving at settlements in central and northern Afghanistan. While new arrivals are mainly from the urban centers of Kandhar, Kabul and Jalalabad, a second wave of refugees is expected to come from rural areas, who are fast running out of food stocks.

Staff and local partners will implement the program. Coordination will be done with fellow ACT members, local partners and a United Nations emergency task force. ACT members plan to share information and avoid duplication.

The shelter kits, estimated to cost $90 each, include a family tent, one ground sheet, one plastic sheet and four blankets.  Total cost for direct assistance, transport and storage and support costs: $1.552 million. 

An account has been established to accept financial donations to respond to this emergency. Pakistan/Afghanistan Emergency, Account #6930, CHURCH WORLD SERVICE, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515. On-line contributions to: . Or phone 800-297-1516 for information/credit card donations.


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