Photos of the refugees
Afghan refugees eating grass, freezing temperature kills 18 children

Afghan refugees living in miserable condition in camps

The Nation, December 31, 2000
By Shamim Shahid

PESHAWAR- Amidst chilly cold and drought, thousand of Afghans mostly women and children are living under the open sky in various camps around Peshawar and the United Nations affiliated agencies as well as the host government yet to take steps for the protection of these helpless people lives.

Apart from shelter, the newly arrived Afghan refugees lack food services as a result of which number of beggars is increasing day by day in all over NWFP, particularly in its urban areas.

Though the NWFP Governor has imposed ban on entry of new Afghan refugees into the province but just for their survival a large number of them are always in struggle to reach Peshawar or to other parts of the country. In this respect, in the last three months thousands of Afghan families are arrived and now they are facing severe socio-economic problems.

During Eid days this scribe visited new Afghan refugees camp at Akora Khattak where more than 10,000 people mostly women and children are living under the open sky. Beside Akora Khattak Camp, similar is the situation at Shamshato, Azakhel, Jalozai, Nasar Bagh, and Katcha Garhi camps where also thousands of families are facing problems. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has also made arrangements for accommodating some 16,000 refugees in Shamshato refugees camp but these people yet to receive relief goods. Some of the UNHCR volunteers at Peshawar informed this correspondent that they are going to distribute relief goods amongst the newly arrived Afghan refugees at Shamshato camp on January 1 and 2. Such items included tents, plastic sheets, food items, utensils and other. It is believed that through such distribution, the newly Afghan refugees could be in a better position to survive. While other facilities particularly drinking water is already available in such camps.

At Akora Khattak camp, some 10,275 families are living in plastic sheets amidst chilly cold and wind. Majority of them are women and children and they belong to Parwan, Kapisa, Takhar, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh and Kundoz provinces of Afghanistan. These people arrived there from three to four months back just to save their lives. No doubt to state that continuous in-fighting amongst the warring Afghan factions is the main reason for displacement of the civilians to north of Kabul as well as other northern and Central provinces of Afghanistan but the prolonged drought has multiplied miseries of these people who have been made hostages in the 22-year long civil war-like situation in that country.

During detailed chat with dwellers of plastic sheet village this scribe came to know that from five to 10 persons are living in one sheet. Such people are lacking every sort of facilities. Neither they get proper drinking water nor any sort of food items. They fetch water from a private tube well, situated on a distance of around two kilometers while they begging for dry bread in old refugees comp or at Akora Khattak town and its surrounding villages. Due to lacking of proper facilities, almost of these Afghans are vulnerable to various diseases.

This correspondent witnessed that majority of these people lacking warm clothes and shoes. Without blankets and quilts, they are passing prolonged nights of winter and compelled to sleep on ground. Similarly, they are lacking utensils to prepare food and Qehva for themselves as well as for infants. Even during the holy month of Ramazan, majority of these people were unable to have Sehri and Iftar.

Sher Agha, who along with wife and six teenagers was living in a small plastic sheet, said that his one-year-old daughter is suffering from fever for the last three days but he is unable to buy common tablets for her. Similarly, he diverted attentions towards other infrastructures which included a single kettle and two water coolers. He said that all of goods they left behind just to save their lives while the cash amount they spent on transportation charges. He admitted that they want to go to the nearby mud houses of his countrymen in the same camp as well as in Akora Khattak camp for collecting dry bread for his children.

Like Sherin Agha, almost occupants of the new refugees camp are facing similar problems and they expect relief and assistance goods from the UNHCR in the near future. An employee of Afghan Refugees Commissionerate said that a survey was completed before Eid and so far they pin-pointed 10,275 people as deserving for the UNHCR assistance. He hoped that in the light of such a survey, the deserving refugees would receive assistance in the near future. So far he said that a plan to provide clean drinking water is in final stage.

Apart from the UNHCR a number of international donors are also struggling to provide other facilities to these helpless people.

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