The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said it was continuing preparations for a massive exodus of Afghans into neighbouring countries, having received nearly $7 million in pledges to help those nations cope with the expected influx.
UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told a press briefing in Geneva that agency staff in Quetta were meeting with local authorities on the possibility of moving Afghans from the border area to Dara camp in Pakistan, about 12 kilometres away, where there they will receive tents, food and other relief items.
The UN agency had transported 2,000 tents, 6,000 quilts, 2,000 kitchen sets, and 4,000 buckets to Quetta three days ago, where they are ready to be loaded onto trucks for the border as soon as permission is given to move, Mr. Janowski said.
Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were on standby to cover the medical sector, and UNICEF was ready to help the local authorities and non-governmental organizations with providing water and sanitation. The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) would provide food, Mr. Janowski said.
A UNHCR team that visited the Chaman border on Sunday estimated there were 5,000 to 10,000 people waiting unsheltered in the open on the other side. "Groups of women and children were visible sitting in forlorn groups with their baggage," Mr. Janowski said, adding that health and sanitation were concerns for a group that large.
In Iran, UNHCR and government refugee officials continued to identify possible refugee campsites in the border area. A total of 12 proposed sites have been identified so far. The number of Afghans spontaneously returning to Afghanistan from Iran has fallen sharply from about 600 people a day to less than 200 a day, in the first such drop since June. However, no new arrivals in Iran have been reported since the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States, according to Mr. Janowski.