Winter takes toll on refugees living in Kabul
Kabul, January 20, 2005 - Desperate conditions continue for displaced people who cannot to go home. Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, dozens of international relief agencies have arrived in Afghanistan to provide help to those displaced by years of war and drought. Yet the capital still faces a serious refugee problem, and this year's especially cold winter has dramatized the scale of the hardship.
About 3,000 refugee families are living either in tents or abandoned government buildings in Kabul, according to Mohammad Hafiz Nadim, spokesman for the ministry for refugees and repatriation.
He said there are currently about 30 "tent towns" in Kabul. About 300 families live in the Chaman-e-Hozori camp alone. At least three people have died there so far this winter.
Many of the refugees questioned said they refuse to return to their home provinces, citing lack of security, shelter, schools and hospitals, and fear of warlords.
But Mohammad Hashim Mayar, coordinator for the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, ACBAR, said, "Displaced people don't want to return to their home areas because here in Kabul charitable organizations are providing aid for them."
He conceded that the refugees are not getting enough aid, though. "It is a matter of sorrow that displaced people are dying and getting sick in the presence of dozens of non-governmental organizations and the central government," he said. "The government and charitable organizations must strive to solve their problems."
Nadim from the ministry of refugees and repatriation said the new government is aware of the problems and is currently working on a plan to provide land for the returnees to build homes on.
Meanwhile the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, is providing flour, oil, peas, medicines, blankets and heaters for those returnee families who are living in Kabul in tents and abandoned buildings. Farhad Nadiri, a spokesperson for UNHCR Kabul, said the organization is also providing mobile medical clinics.
More than 3.5 million Afghan refugees have returned since UNHCR began its voluntary repatriation program in 2002. Nadiri said this figure includes over 750,000 refugees who returned last year, mostly from Pakistan and Iran. He said that 160,000 of the refugees that UNHCR has helped return remain displaced within the country - mainly because they don't have homes.