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UN refugee agency prepares to screen Afghans camped inside Pakistan's border

UN refugee agency prepares to screen Afghans camped inside Pakistan's border

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announced plans to start screening thousands of Afghans currently camped in the desert along the border area just inside Pakistan.

UNHCR welcomed the fact that registration could begin tomorrow, calling the development "a positive sign that thousands of Afghans waiting at the Charman border crossing will soon be able to move."

In an update released in Geneva, the agency said Afghans would be moved to an empty refugee settlement about a dozen kilometres from the border. "The site has a good water source and UNHCR staff believe it can accommodate up to 20,000 new arrivals."

UNHCR's efforts to help the Afghans will be supported by other UN agencies, including the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which will provide provisions to those arriving in Balochistan.

Meanwhile, a WFP spokesman told reporters in Islamabad today that the food agency continues to help more than 1 million people inside Afghanistan despite increasingly difficult conditions.

Although food shipments into the country have been temporarily suspended, "we still have enough stocks inside Afghanistan to continue full normal operations for three weeks at least," spokesman Khaled Masour said. He added that the agency was not able to reach all 4 million people that had been accessible before 11 September.

Underscoring the worsening situation facing local staff inside Afghanistan, Mr. Masour called on the Taliban to allow the UN to contact them. "More than any time before we need to stay in touch with them for solely humanitarian purposes," he stressed.

In a related development, WFP today released the preliminary results of a survey conducted throughout the country this summer. "We have some disturbing results showing that about 320,000 people in the northern provinces will not have enough food to sustain them by the end of this month in Faryab and Balkh provinces," said Mr. Masour, warning that some 1.6 million people in the area would run out of food by December.