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Pakistan is Seeing More, Not Fewer
Afghan Refugees, CWS Reports

January 25, 2002, NEW YORK CITY – Despite the fall of the Taliban and the institution of a new interim government in Afghanistan, many Afghan refugees are not returning home from Pakistan, reports Church World Service, which is providing emergency aid among the refugees.

In addition, more, not fewer, refugees from Afghanistan are crossing the border into Pakistan, according to CWS.  Key factors: Afghanistan continues to suffer widespread insecurity, and its demolished infrastructure has yet to be rebuilt.

“The situation remains fluid and tense,” said Marvin Parvez, director of the CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan program.  “The border areas are showing signs of new strain because of an increase in refugees.   The needs of people in the camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are increasing.”

CWS staff described how, earlier this month, when the border near Quetta was reopened after a four-day closure, distressed and tired refugees without sufficient food, water, warm clothes and shelter started to pour into the camps.

“Killi Faiso Camp registered 112 families on January 8,” Mr. Parvez said.  “The following day, 2,500 refugees were waiting across the barbed wire for registration not knowing whether they would be registered or not.  Most of these refugees belong to the Pushtoon community.  Currently Killi Faiso accommodates 780 tents.

“Landi Karez Camp was established recently and is serving as a permanent camp,” he continued.  “The camp has 14 blocks.  On January 8, 62 families were moved to Landi Karez and on January 9, 202 families were transferred to Landi Karez.  Roghani Camp, with a population of about 18,000 refugees, is full.

“Based on the current statistics,” Mr. Parvez said, “CWS believes that the refugee influx is not decreasing and that many refugees are not returning to Afghanistan.”

Church World Service is providing emergency food and shelter both to Afghan refugees in Pakistan and among Afghans displaced by war and drought within Afghanistan – so far, without interception by local warlords, although insecurity is a concern.

To date, assistance has included 9,000 “Family Shelter Kits” for some 63,000 uprooted Afghans in central and northern Afghanistan and in camps in Pakistan. 

Some 400 Afghan refugee women near Quetta are earning a small income as part of a Church World Service project.  They are making 60,000 quilts, 20,000 of which have been used in CWS Family Shelter Kits.  The other 40,000 are being purchased by the UNHCR and UNICEF for use in their emergency programs in Afghanistan.  “The project has had a positive emotional impact among the refugee women, and also has boosted the local market for cotton and cloth in Quetta,” Mr. Parvez reported.

CWS also has provided food parcels – beans, rice, wheat, cooking oil, sugar and tea – to affected families.  In all, CWS has provided assistance to some 17,000 families. 

Support has come from denominational emergency response funds and public donations.  American Airlines donated blankets and other material resources and presented them to CWS in Quetta last month. The gifts were distributed to 464 refugee families as part of the Eid celebrations, which mark the end of Ramadan.

“All of us in the humanitarian response community agree that widespread famine in Afghanistan was averted thanks to the World Food Programme’s successful delivery of a large quantity of wheat by the end of December,” said Donna Derr, CWS Associate Director for International Emergency Response. 

“But supplemental food was, is and will continue to be critical, especially for children,” she said.  “Even if all the WFP wheat gets distributed, it won’t meet all the nutritional needs of children.”

Another concern is that in southern Afghanistan, especially around Kandahar and Spin Boldak, humanitarian work is virtually impossible because of insecurity there. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) no longer have access to aid and subsequently move over to Pakistan, where CWS is working with UNHCR in two camps.

Nonetheless, Mr. Parvez points to new signs of optimism - if no other reason, changes in outlook. "It is still a huge task to rebuild Afghanistan, but you can see hope in people's faces, enthusiasm and excitement,” he said after a recent visit to Kabul.

While immediate relief assistance is continuing and will for some time, CWS is also looking toward the rehabilitation phase. Toward that end, CWS Afghanistan/Pakistan has opened an office in Kabul, which should be fully staffed by spring. The office will serve as the focal point for CWS project monitoring of work in Afghanistan.

CWS Emergency Response Program Director Rick Augsburger and Ms. Derr will be in Pakistan Jan. 26-Feb. 4 to begin long-term program planning with CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan staff for CWS rehabilitation and recovery initiatives in Afghanistan.   Possible initiatives being considered are housing reconstruction, agricultural, health and education inputs.

Church World Service is the global humanitarian response ministry of the National Council of Churches and its 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member communions.  

To help, direct funds to:
Church World Service, Pakistan/Afghanistan Emergency, 28606 Phillips St., Elkhart, IN 46514. More information/credit card donations to 1-800-297-1516 or online at www.churchworldservice.org

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