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Deteriorating conditions in eastern Afghanistan drive civilians to flee, UN reports

Deteriorating conditions in eastern Afghanistan drive civilians to flee, UN reports

Deteriorating conditions in eastern Afghanistan are pushing more Afghans to flee towards Pakistan, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

“In the North West Frontier Province area of Pakistan, we have received information from authorities regarding the presence of several thousands of Afghans crowded at the Kurram border area in an attempt to be admitted into Pakistan,” Fatoumata Kaba told reporters in Islamabad.

The agency expressed concern about unconfirmed reports of vulnerable Afghan asylum seekers being turned away from entering Pakistan by the authorities. “UNHCR would appreciate the generosity of the Pakistani authorities in granting these Afghans temporary asylum if they prove to be genuine asylum-seekers,” Ms. Kaba said.

Along the Chaman crossing, some 3,000 newly arrived Afghans are also waiting in the “no-man’s land” area along the border. “These families have been fleeing war, drought or poverty,” said Ms. Kaba, adding, “Sometimes, it is all three.”

The spokesperson warned that if the situation in Afghanistan does not stabilize, “we are likely to see a continued outflow of Afghans to neighboring countries.”

Also today, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that on Monday it would begin distributing food to 250,000 of the most vulnerable people in the city of Herat. “According to our staff, people in Herat are highly vulnerable now with a great number of widows, beggars and homeless in the streets,” said agency spokesperson Jordan Dey.

The survey team hired to do the assessment for the Herat distribution was entirely female, according to WFP. The non-governmental organization (NGO) World Vision hired 250 women – many of whom had previously worked as teachers, doctors or staff of humanitarian agencies – to conduct the week-long survey.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are providing basic education materials for 1.5 million children in advance of the 21 March official start of the school year in Afghanistan. “That's the number of young Afghans…who we expect will wish to go to school that day,” said agency spokesperson Chulho Hyun.