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Afghanistan: reports of displaced persons on the rise, UN aid workers say

Afghanistan: reports of displaced persons on the rise, UN aid workers say

Reports of people being displaced from their homes in a number of areas around Afghanistan are rising, and access for humanitarian workers still remains difficult in parts of the country, United Nations relief officials said today.

According to the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan in Islamabad, hundreds of families were reported displaced from the Tora Bora area due to the US-led bombing campaign, while in the Kunduz area, the number of internally displaced people has grown to between 4,000 and 5,000 in three camps.

The security situation in Kunduz and in much of the southern region of Afghanistan is similarly unstable, a spokesman for the UN Coordinator said. "Armed groups operating north of Kunduz and on the road between Kunduz and Kabul make it difficult for relief operations to be carried out according to needs, and national staff have advised that it is not safe for international staff to return to the Kunduz area," Einar Holtet said.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, said it was concerned about the 2,700 newly displaced persons who have congregated in Zaranj on the Iranian border. While information was still incomplete, the group appeared to be recently displaced from Kandahar, having fled from the violence and food insecurity in the region.

According to initial reports, WFP said some families have found refuge within the village, but 197 families - or 1,200 people - were living outdoors, in an open area, with no shelter. The group includes small children and pregnant women.

As for the return of refugees, the number of Afghans coming back from Pakistan rose for the third straight day this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported. Yesterday border monitors from the agency at Chaman recorded 1,900 persons crossing the border back into Afghanistan.

Since Monday, over 5,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan, marking a trend of return among Afghan populations from neighbouring countries. The largest numbers of returns so far have been from Iran, with over 25,000 in recent weeks, particularly to northern Afghanistan, UNHCR said.