UNHCR fears for staff safety after fighting erupts near Afghan refugee camp

UNHCR fears for staff safety after fighting erupts near Afghan refugee camp

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed concern again for the safety of its staff after shooting broke out in villages next to one of its camps in Pakistan, which left one person dead and two others injured.

According to a spokesman for the agency, fighting erupted between two groups in villages adjacent to the Old Bagzai camp in North West Frontier Province. A staff member of a UNHCR implementing partner was killed and two others were injured in the crossfire, though neither the refugees nor the humanitarian workers were the targets of the shooting.

“UNHCR has consistently expressed concern about the security of its staff, the staff of its implementing partners and the refugees in the tribal areas near the Pakistan-Afghan border, where all the new refugee camps are situated, and very much regrets the death of the worker,” spokesman Yusuf Hassan told reporters in Islamabad, adding that all UNHCR staff were safely evacuated to the nearby town of Sadda.

The incident has forced UNHCR to temporarily halt the re-location of Afghan refugees to the Old Bagzai camp, Mr. Hassan said. Earlier, a delegation from one of the warring groups had entered the camp and the staff had to call in the local authorities to have them removed.

The authorities have intervened and paramilitary units have been deployed to separate the two groups, Mr. Hassan said. “This morning, we understand that a loya jirga was convened to discuss how to resolve the dispute,” he added. “We hope to resume our work as soon as the security situation permits.”

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that immunization teams were going from mosque to mosque, village to village, to vaccinate the children in the more remote areas of Badakhshan Province as part of its ongoing measles vaccination drive.

The remoteness of the Yumgan Valley of the Jurm District, and lack of road access, “makes for greater efforts by vaccination teams, who are trekking it for the most part, while storage equipment containing vaccine vials are being carried atop donkeys,” according to UNICEF spokesman Chulho Hyun.