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Many Afghans returning home with 'next to nothing,' top UN refugee official warns

Many Afghans returning home with 'next to nothing,' top UN refugee official warns

Ruud Lubbers
While welcoming the return home of more than half a million Afghans over the past few weeks, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, warned today that more must be done inside the war- and drought-ravaged country to ensure the sustainability of the repatriation effort.

"Many Afghans are returning home with next to nothing," said Mr. Lubbers, who is currently in New York for meetings at UN Headquarters. "Donors must ensure that the massive repatriation under way is sustainable for the long-term. That means that rehabilitation and development aid must reach rural towns and villages immediately."

Since the UN refugee agency, known by its acronym UNHCR, began helping Afghans to return home nine weeks ago, more than 500,000 refugees have already been repatriated from Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asian states and more than 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have gone back to their villages. Those totals amount to more than 650,000 returnees, or over 54 per cent of the refugee agency's goal for the year.

In addition to spending $23 million to buy beams and other shelter materials for those who need to rebuild their homes, UNHCR said it was also funding various projects throughout Afghanistan to provide protection and assist the reintegration of 1.2 million planned returning refugees and IDPs this year, as well as to assist some 3 million Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries.