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Lack of funding jeopardizes return of over 1.5 million Afghans - UN refugee official

Lack of funding jeopardizes return of over 1.5 million Afghans - UN refugee official

A senior United Nations official has indicated that a lack of adequate funding in Afghanistan could put at risk the planned return of over 1.5 million people displaced by years of fighting.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Geneva, the top official of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi, stressed that "immediate progress in development and reconstruction as well as better security [are] key to the success of the international effort to put Afghanistan back on track."

Mr. Grandi said that donors must remain focused on developing Afghanistan to ensure that the repatriation over the next few years of more than 4 million Afghans still outside their homeland remains sustainable.

Mr. Grandi was speaking upon his return from a meeting of the Afghanistan Support Group in Oslo, where donors pledged $1 billion in aid for next year. UNCHR has indicated that it needs $195 million to help 1.2 million refugees to return home mainly from Iran and Pakistan. It will also assist some 300,000 internally displaced people in going back to their original communities.

More than 1.8 million Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran since the refugee agency began offering repatriation assistance last March, while more than 230,000 internally displaced Afghans have returned to their home areas. During the same time, another some 400,000 Afghans returned on their own without seeking international help.