Local Afghan leaders assure UN official that refugees will be allowed to return safely
Following a recent spate of attacks on ethnic minorities in northern Afghanistan, local officials have assured the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that people who had been forced to flee would be able to safely return to their homes.
UNHCR’s Chief of Mission for Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi, had discussions with Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ustad Atta Muhammed and Sardar Saidi, who indicated that “all efforts are being made to control factional fighting and that additional measures will be taken to guarantee a safe return for refugees from Pakistan and Iran and IDPs [internally displaced persons] returning to their home villages,” UNHCR spokesman Ragnhild Ek told reporters today in Kabul. “These measures are under discussion.”
Refugees are currently repatriating at a rate of approximately 10,000 per day. UNHCR provides them with a travel allowance as well as an aid package and 100 kilograms of wheat per family from the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
In another development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today announced the results of a survey of Afghan schools carried out in consultation with the country’s Ministry of Education that revealed a “massive return of children – both boys and girls – to schools around the country,” agency spokesman Eddie Carwardine reported.
Nearly 1.25 million children are now attending school in 20 provinces. “If the survey continues to show a similar trend from the rest of the country, UNICEF believes that the final number of children in the classroom will exceed all expectations,” he said. “Indications are that enrolment will be 60 per cent higher than before March, with the number of girls coming to school over 90 per cent higher.”
Despite these encouraging signs, UNICEF also called attention to severe problems, including “a continued need for more books, stationery supplies and investment in teacher training and support,” the spokesman said. Physical infrastructure also remained a concern, with less than one in four schools surveyed having adequate sanitation for pupils.
In order to meet these needs, UNICEF is appealing for an additional $10 million on top of its original appeal for $47 million for education to ensure that all children and teachers returning to school in coming months are properly equipped.