Afghanistan: UN envoy tours poverty-stricken Bamiyan region

Afghanistan: UN envoy tours poverty-stricken Bamiyan region

Lakhdar Brahimi
The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Lakhdar Brahimi, has toured Bamiyan, a poverty-hit region where the international community seeks to expand its outreach, a UNAMA spokesman reported today.

"The international presence is very much concentrated in Bamiyan city, which is something that we hope will change," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in Kabul. "We all have to be further into the districts, but it is a very difficult area to work in, access is very difficult."

Describing the severe conditions in Bamiyan, the spokesman explained that it is located in Afghanistan's "hunger-belt," and refugees returning to the area faced a severe lack of shelter.

While in Bamiyan on Wednesday, Mr. Brahimi met with Afghan Vice-President Abdul Khalili as well as other officials and UN staff working in the area.

Mr. Brahimi was accompanied by Professor Ikuo Hirayama, a Japanese traditional painter who has painted numerous points of interest along the Silk Road, as well as the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the spokesman said. "Of course this time he was making sketches of the very sad sight of where the Buddhas used to be," he added, referring to the fact that the Taliban regime had destroyed the area's famous ancient statues.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announced plans to begin the voluntary move of refugees from Chaman and Spin Boldak on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to a new relocation site being set up west of Kandahar.

The agency estimates that there are over 30,000 displaced people in Spin Boldak and another 25,000 in Chaman, with conditions in both camps described as "difficult" and the humanitarian situation "appalling."

Many aid agencies have retreated from the area, while those that remain have only limited access. According to UNHCR, the relocation of families from the border areas was requested by the Governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.