UN: Afghanistan Needs $815 Million Next Year
KABUL (Reuters) - Aid-reliant Afghanistan will need $815 million for humanitarian and reconstruction projects next year, a senior U.N. official said on Thursday.
Nigel Fisher, deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said most of the money would go to the government to fund programs including mine clearance, emergency feeding, health, education, repatriation of refugees and reconstruction.
Fisher said the United Nations would launch an appeal in Oslo next week for funding for the Transitional Assistance Program for Afghanistan.
"The appeal obviously is much smaller than the appeal for last and the current year," he said.
"The total appeal for this current year was $1.6 billion, of which we got just over $1 billion. The new appeal is about $815 million only," he told a news conference.
Fisher said the U.N.'s World Food Program required $150 million for food distribution to needy Afghans, while $67 million was needed for refugee repatriation and $60 million for demining.
Fisher said a five-year program to remove mines from high priority areas would require $300 million. "(This) means we have to go into overdrive for fund raising," he said.
"Most of all, we are trying also to say to donors that less resources need to come through the U.N., more should go directly through to the government either through the budget or trust funds that the government is setting up."
He did not specify the amount of cash that would be needed for reconstruction projects.
Meeting earlier this year after the overthrow of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, international donors pledged to provide $4.5 billion to Afghanistan over the next five years.
Afghan officials have complained that the pledged cash is insufficient for a country devasted by 23 years of war. They have also complained that not enough was channeled through the government.
The World Bank, the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank estimated last year that Afghanistan needed about $10 billion, while the government called for $17-$20 billion.
Australian Troops may help Kabul to rebuild
The Australian (p 10) 11 December 2002 John Kerin
Australia is considering sending peacekeeping troops and specialist military advisers to Afghanistan as part of a postwar rebuilding of the country.
With the last contingent of 150 SAS troopers to return home next week, Defence Minister Robert Hill said he had been asked by Kabul and Washington to provide further military assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Australia had also been asked to provide troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and even a separate UN peacekeeping force.
The US had also asked for specialist military advisers to help train the Afghan army.
The ISAF comprises 5000 troops from 18 countries with a largely policing role, but which may also be used to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
“There have been plenty of approaches to us, including supporting ISAF, and in supporting the Americans in training the Afghan National Army” Senator Hill told The Australian.
“The Current rotation for ISAF is being led by the Germans and the Dutch, but at the moment there’s no one coming forward to lead the following rotation and there is a debate as to whether there will be some transition to a UN peacekeeping force.
“We are not rushing back in… but we certainly want to see the gains made in Afghanistan consolidated.”
However, any move to contribute troops to ISAF or a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan will put further pressure on an already stretched defence budget.
Australian troops are already deployed in a number of overseas troublespots, including the Middle East and East Timor, and the commitment to Iraq is likely to increase if the UN disarmament process fails.
Special forces commander Duncan Lewis confirmed at a briefing in Canberra yesterday that the last group of 150 SAS troops deployed to Afghanistan would return to Australia next week.
Brigadier Lewis said the troops had performed admirably over the past year, playing their part in toppling the Taliban and routing al-Qaida in some of the worst terrain and most difficult conditions imaginable.
He said the troops had to contend with an enemy that had defied original expectations with its ferocity and tenacity in difficult mountain country, and had endured a freezing winter and scorching summer.
“ (But) Afghanistan has a new interim government, the extensive al-Qaida training facilities have been destroyed… and the al-Qaida leadership is either destroyed or driven from its sanctuary,” Brigadier Lewis said.
Parliament agrees to send 44 soldiers to Afghanistan
ZAGREB, Croatia - Parliament gave Croat soldiers the green light Thursday to serve in the U.S-led peace mission in Afghanistan (news - web sites).
Although some critics expected stiff opposition, the initiative to send 44 Croat policemen to the war-ravaged country won support from 104 lawmakers in the 151-seat legislature. Twenty-one were opposed, one abstained, and the rest were absent.
The soldiers will depart after New Year's day and serve in a German brigade in the capital Kabul, helping to "develop security structures," said Deputy Minister of Defense Zlatko Gareljic.
The six-month mission will cost the government some 22.5 million kunas (US$3 million).
A member of NATO's Partnership for Peace, Croatia is eager to show that it supports the U.S.-led war on terror and is militarily equipped to deserve NATO membership.
Some smaller nationalist parties opposed the decision, arguing that the country, which emerged from a bloody war for independence in 1995, had a moral obligation not to expose its soldiers to possible further suffering.
President Stipe Mesic, the army's supreme commander, has the right to veto the parliament decision, but he has previously voiced support for the move.
Suspects in Afghan attack on aid workers held
KABUL (Reuters) - A group of Afghans have been arrested on suspicion of attacking and robbing two German aid workers in Kabul last month, police said on Thursday.
The group was arrested on Wednesday after a gun battle about 20 km (12 miles) northwest of the capital, a police officer said.
He declined to identify the suspects or say how many had been arrested, but said they had been accused of highway robbery, a crime punishable under Islamic law by amputation of a culprit's hand and leg.
Four armed men held up the Germans a man and a woman on a minor road, physically assaulting and robbing them.
The incident came during a crime wave that has seen 20 Kabul residents killed and many more robbed in the past three weeks, government media reports said.
The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakdhar Brahimi, had called for vigorous investigation of the attack.
Afghanistan, battered by 23 years of war, relies on aid provided by foreign relief agencies. Last year, donor nations pledged to pour in $4.5 billion for its reconstruction over five years, but many Afghans complain that delivery of aid and reconstruction has been too slow.
Afghan Army Demands Warlords Surrender Arms -Report
Wed Dec 11, 8:58 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The Afghan army and international peacekeepers plan to crack down on warlords in five southeastern Afghan provinces if they fail to lay down their arms in 10 days, an army spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
The government has asked all factional commanders in the region to surrender their weapons or face a joint operation by the Afghan army and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency quoted Afghan army spokesman Mohammad Ismail as saying.
The warning was issued to warlords in Logar, Paktia, Paktika, Khost and Ghazni provinces, the AIP reported.
Several powerful warlords, including in the Pashtun-dominated southern and southeastern provinces, have been challenging the authority of President Hamid Karzai's government since it was installed last year. In several provinces local commanders refused to accept government-appointed governors and fought official forces.
One renegade warlord, Padshah Khan Zadran, has waged fierce battles against official forces in Khost province and vowed to continue to oppose Karzai's rule.
Warlords are seen as one of the greatest threats to security in Afghanistan, where central government control is virtually non-existent in many areas and where factional fighting has broken out in the north, west, east and southeast.
Military spokesman Ismail, whose 3rd Afghan Corps is based in Gardez city south of Kabul, said that 200 ISAF soldiers had already arrived to take part in the operation.
However, ISAF spokesman Tony Grubb denied this. "No ISAF personnel are deployed in Gardez or anywhere outside of Kabul," he said.
ISAF's mandate currently limits it to the capital, although British government sources said in late November that the United States and Britain planned to expand the security umbrella to the provinces from the end of this month.
They said the plan, which had to be approved by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, would cover up to six cities, including Gardez.
Ismail said all commanders not officially belonging to the defense and interior ministries or other government institutions should surrender their weapons.
The U.S.-backed Karzai has already sacked up to 20 medium-level local officials as part of a bid to consolidate his power outside Kabul, and the government is involved in disarmament initiatives in the north and northeast.
Thousands of U.S. troops have also uncovered many large arms caches in the south and southeast during their hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban remnants, but locals are bitterly opposed to being searched or disarmed.
U.S. Troops, Afghans Raid Police Station
Wednesday, December 11, 2002 3:14 AM EST
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) Afghan soldiers and U.S. special forces surrounded a police station in southern Afghanistan and disarmed police after receiving a tip that men loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were hiding inside, an Afghan police official said Wednesday.
About 200 soldiers of Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai and 10 to 12 U.S. special forces troops disarmed the policemen, including a deputy police commissioner, in the raid Monday but didn't find any of the five Hekmatyar supporters alleged to be hiding out there, said deputy police commissioner Mohammed Shoaib.
Shoaib denied that any renegades were in the station house.
The conflict ended after a top police official apparently convinced the Americans and allied troops to withdraw. The U.S. forces apologized to the policemen for the confusion before leaving, Shoaib said.
The station is housed in a building that was originally intended to be a mosque named after Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Left uncompleted when a U.S.-led bombing campaign ousted the Taliban one year ago, it was turned into a police station.
Hekmatyar is a key rebel leader who was based in Iran and is now sought by U.S. forces. Intelligence officials say he is behind efforts to destabilize the government of President Hamid Karzai and attack U.S. soldiers.
Western intelligence says Hekmatyar has met Mullah Omar, who is himself being hunted by the United States and believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. The two men purportedly have agreed to work together.
U.S. Forces Shell Afghan Positions
Wednesday, December 11, 2002 6:26 AM EST
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) U.S. forces shelled suspected enemy positions with mortars Wednesday after coming under rocket fire before dawn at a base near the border with Pakistan, the U.S. military said.
Capt. Elayne Kramer said U.S. Air Force A-10s also took to the skies after the attack at Lwara, 110 miles south of the capital, Kabul.
No casualties were reported.
Kramer said unidentified attackers fired five rockets from three launch sites one mile from the Pakistani border.
Two rockets landed at the base's outer perimeter, while two white phosphorous rockets hit guard posts on the north and south side of the base, Kramer said. It was unclear where the fifth rocket landed.
Phosphorous rockets burn with an intense chemical heat instead of exploding.
Elsewhere, Afghan villagers living near another U.S. base at Orgun, close to the eastern town of Gardez, averted a possible attack on the base by leading special forces soldiers Sunday to several rockets aimed at the Americans.
U.S. forces destroyed the rockets in place, Kramer said.
On Monday, villagers pointed out six more rockets to special forces soldiers patrolling four miles northeast of Orgun. Those rockets were also destroyed, Kramer said.
Over 10,000 U.S. and coalition troops have been hunting al-Qaida and Taliban remnants for most of this year along Afghanistan's rugged border with Pakistan. U.S. troops are attacked several times a week, but the inaccurate rockets rarely cause serious damage or casualties.
Al-Qaida and Taliban holdouts, along with renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are considered chief suspects in the rocket attacks.
Son of Former Afghan King Buried
Thursday, December 12, 2002 6:25 AM EST
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) The son of former Afghan king Mohammad Zaher Shah was buried in the capital on Thursday at a memorial service in which the frail ex-monarch made a rare public appearance.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai also attended the burial ceremony for Shah Mahmoud Zaher at a special hilltop cemetery in southwest Kabul named for the king's father, Nadir Shah.
The casket was draped in a traditional green cloth inscribed with verses from the Quran.
Shah Mahmoud Zaher died Saturday of cancer in Rome, Italy at the age of 56, said his brother, Mir Wais.
``I'm very thankful for all these people who are here to express their condolences to us,'' Wais said.
One of eight children of the former king, Zaher is survived by five siblings. He graduated from Britain's Oxford University and worked in the foreign ministry in Kabul while his father was king, Wais said. He spent much of the last several decades as a private businessman.
The king was overthrown in a palace coup and spent three decades in exile in Italy before returning to Afghanistan in April. The 88-year-old former monarch convened a national grand council, or loya jirga, in June, where it was decided that he would be allowed to reside in his former mansion.
He was given the ceremonial duties of convening the next parliament and constitutional commission.
Afghanistan launches livestock vaccination campaign
Thursday, December 12, 2002 3:43 AM EST
KABUL, Dec 12, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) A national livestock vaccination campaign targeting more than five million farm animals was going on in Afghanistan with the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said a press release of FAO Thursday in Kabul.
The campaign would be finished by the end of this year. Around 10 million doses of animal vaccines had been distributed to almost 30 provinces of the nation. Cattle, sheep, goats and chickens were being vaccinated against important endemic animal diseases such as peste des petits ruminants (PPR), enterotoxaemia, anthrax, sheep pox, Newcastle disease and gumboro, said the press release.
In the past, livestock production has played a key role in the Afghan household economy and has been responsible for up to 40 percent of national income. However, the past four years of drought have led to dramatic losses of livestock due to the lack of feed and water. For the Kuchi nomads and farmers, the provision of vaccines and animal drugs is a top priority to prevent the loss of any more breeding animals from livestock diseases.
FAO was also supporting the fight against rabies in major Afghan cities to protect people from this fatal disease. The campaign aimed to vaccinate more than 150,000 dogs. Approximately four hundred people were bitten by rabies-suspicious animal throughout the country every month and several deaths from rabies in humans had been reported in the past. Despite ongoing vaccination of domestic dogs, there were still a large number of stray dogs that need to be controlled, according to the press release.
Afghan cabinet meets to address the plight of disabled
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
The cabinet met in an emergency session on 10 December to discuss the demonstration held by disabled citizens in Kabul on 9 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 2002), Radio Free Afghanistan reported. The cabinet decided to increase financial benefits for the disabled and ordered the establishment of a commission to review the situation of hundreds of thousands of disabled Afghan citizens, the RFE/RL service reported. The demonstrators held a peaceful protest rally during which they called for the resignation of Martyrs and the Disabled Minister Abdullah Wardak. AT
Bamyan province highlights Afghanistan's hospital shortage
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
The Central Hospital in the central Afghan province of Bamyan is the only functioning hospital in the region and serves patients from five provinces - Maidan, Baghlan, Parwan, Uruzgan, and Bamyan province itself, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 10 December. Dr. Mohammad Fahim, the hospital's acting director and internal-medicine specialist, told the RFE/RL service that the hospital has just eight doctors, 12 nurses, and 44 beds and treats 150 patients daily. Dr. Fahim said the hospital has no x-ray facilities, labs, or blood bank, and that only the internal-medicine and surgery departments are functional. Dr. Fahim said he has informed the Health Ministry of the dire situation, Radio Free Afghanistan added. AT
Iran's President Khatami to visit Pakistan this month
Agence France Presse ISLAMABAD, December 12, 2002
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is to visit Islamabad this month for wide-ranging talks with Pakistani leaders that will address regional security issues, officials said Thursday.
The two governments have finalised arrangements for the December 23-26 "important event," a senior foreign ministry official told AFP. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar returned overnight after three days in Tehran, where he called on Khatami and met other senior officials.
Khokhar also delivered a message from President Pervez Musharraf to the Iranian leader.
"The talks between Khatami and Pakistani leaders will cover the regional security situation, India-Pakistan tensions, Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism and bilateral relations," the ministry official said.
Pakistan looks to Iran to help improve long-strained relations between Islamabad and New Delhi due to the bitter dispute over Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both.
Iran has good relations with India and a plan for the construction of a pipeline to transmit Iranian gas to India via Pakistani territory is under consideration.
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, foreign minister in Pakistan's newly-inducted civilian government, said Wednesday that Islamabad was looking forward to Khatami's visit to further strengthen bilateral ties.
"Meaningful economic cooperation between the two countries is a priority of our government's focus on relations with Iran and will figure prominently in the talks," Kasuri said. Pakistan wants better relations with India, but will keep arsenal to deter "Indian adventurism" Associated Press Worldstream ISLAMABAD, Pakistan December 11, 2002 Wednesday Pakistan's new government wants better relations with India, but will not tolerate aggression by its nuclear rival or compromise its stand on the disputed region of Kashmir, Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri said Wednesday.
In a speech outlining the foreign policy of the newly elected government, Kasuri said Pakistan's military and nuclear weapons were meant for self-defense, but also to "deter Indian adventurism."
"Our sole aim is to prevent aggression and to safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity," Kasuri said. "Pakistan does not harbor any expansionist or hegemonic designs, or covet regional domination." The Himalayan province of Kashmir has been in dispute since India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947. The South Asian countries have fought two of their three wars over control of the region.
India accuses Pakistan of fomenting a Muslim-led insurgency in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge but says it gives moral, political and diplomatic support to what it calls a Kashmiri freedom movement. Artillery shelling across the boundary separating the two countries occurs regularly.
South Asia's Strategic Sea Change Publication: Wall Street Journal Date: 12/12/2002 Author: Ilan Berman With the world's attention focused on Iraq, a major transformation is taking place largely unnoticed in South Asia. A serious strategic partnership is springing up between India and the United States.
In recent weeks, Washington has quietly commenced a substantial overhaul of its relationship with New Delhi. Under new U.S. guidelines, unveiled as part of an emerging security dialogue with officials in New Delhi, the Bush administration has officially rolled back its four-year-old sanctions against India. The South Asian nation now joins the ranks of American allies like Japan and Singapore, gaining eligibility for significant discretionary military assistance.
Washington and New Delhi are also ratcheting up their military coordination. In late September, India and the U.S. carried out a week-long naval exercise in the Arabian Sea the largest ever between the two countries. Subsequently, in November, the Indian and U.S. air forces conducted joint exercises to practice advanced regional tactics and maneuvers for the first time in 40 years.
These are hardly isolated incidents. According to Indian officials, the two countries have already mapped out an ambitious agenda of bilateral military and strategic contacts over the next two years.
This new warmth hints at the possibility of a monumental regional realignment. After all, since Sept. 11 the Bush administration has consistently courted Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf as its ally in Asian stability. Now, however, there are indications that the White House is starting to sour on Islamabad.
Politically, Washington is beginning to take notice of Pakistan's increasingly undeniable radicalization. National elections in October, the first of their kind since Gen. Musharraf seized power by military coup in 1999, brought considerable gains for Pakistan's religious parties. Now, as the Musharraf government struggles to retain its fragile ruling coalition, there are real worries that the radical Islamist worldview of groups like the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam which is supportive of both the Taliban and al Qaeda could become the country's leitmotif.
Likewise troublesome is Pakistan's track record of proliferation. North Korea's recent confessions regarding an active nuclear program exposed a thriving strategic partnership between Islamabad and Pyongyang. Pakistan's extensive nuclear and missile ties to the DPRK, not to mention its ongoing missile assistance to countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, are now under close scrutiny from Washington.
Afghan refugees strain Kabul Pakistan says another 1.8 million refugees will be returned to Afghanistan within three years.
Publication: Christian Science Monitor Date: 12/11/2002 Author: Ilene Prusher
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - A cluster of 15 refugee families left their camp in Pakistan six months ago and arrived in Afghanistan homeless. In Karta i-Seh, a southwest Kabul neighborhood so shattered the houses look like sandcastles wrecked by a violent tide, they found a skeleton of a house. They cleaned away debris, threw out shell casings, and slapped down bricks to secure plastic sheets for windows, sure that better days were coming.
Half a year later, the families - ethnic Tajiks who don't use a last name - have no electricity, heat, running water, or plumbing. Only two of the young men have found work, and they have one goal: to save enough money, about $100, to send their family back to Pakistan.
Of the 2 million refugees who have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, up to half have returned not to the cities and villages they lived in before, but to Kabul. The strain on the Afghan capital - home to a US-backed government, over 4,500 foreign peacekeeping troops, and arguably the largest postwar reconstruction-aid effort - has left living conditions here worse than they were a year ago. Possibly intensifying that strain, Afghanistan and Pakistan announced Tuesday plans to close camps and return the remaining 1.8 million refugees to Afghanistan in the next three years.
"My daughters are very angry with me, because I've been telling them for years that our country was good," says Bibi Hanifa, a mother of eight with despairing forest-green eyes.
While international and Afghan officials have tried to convince refugees to return to their old villages, they never discouraged a massive return to Kabul, partly because the security and economic situation in other parts of the country is so precarious. Kabul - the only part of Afghanistan protected by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - has become an obvious magnet for returning refugees.
The result is an overload on an already broken city's resources. "Kabul is a city which has lost its grip on its ability to control itself, "says Nasir A. Saberi, the deputy minister of urban development and housing.
Power cuts by the city's feeble stations are now frequent. Many middle class Afghans, who last winter had electricity most of the night, now find they can get power for only a few hours a day. Even the privileged international staff here are routinely left without electricity, heat, and hot water.
Mr. Saberi's own chilly office is temporarily out of power. But even more urgent, he says, is the city's huge housing crisis: Few can afford skyrocketing rents, and 160,000 applications for land plots sit unanswered. Meanwhile, about half a million of the city's shelter is illegal: haphazardly built shacks and squatter homes without links to utilities such as electricity, water, and sewage.
Long lines, little reward
Shortly after 9:30 a.m. at Kabul's main power station, men have already lined the halls outside the director's office. In one corner, a military commander demands that his home be hooked up, claiming that's an order from the country's powerful defense minister, Mohammed Qasim Fahim. Rumor has it that bribes to the proper people will get a home or building hooked up for more hours, but officials say that depends how important you are.
Engineer Fariduddin Wafik, the director of power for Kabul, reads from the list of those elite who have nonstop power - the presidential palace, government ministries and ministers, peacekeepers, hospitals, and places like the airport, radio stations, and ambassadors' homes. The rest, he says, must accept it in limited quantities.
"The biggest problem we have is lack of water. Our dams are empty - one of the three doesn't have even a drop of water in it - and most of our energy is hydroelectric," he says. Water has been scarce since a drought set in four to five years ago. Today, the Kabul River looks more like a rivulet - but the city's population has more than doubled since the dam system was designed.
"Our machinery is so old. The winter will be even worse," he whispers, after he shuts a door on the crowd. Only about 40 percent of the city's residents, he estimates, have any electricity at all. Most of the men in line, he says, will go away empty-handed. "Everyone comes here asking for [electricity], but it's impossible. We simply can't provide it to everyone for 24 hours a day," he says. "Personally, when there's a light on in a house, I feel happy. But what can I do?"
Children do their part, standing in three-hour lines at central water pumps, where they fill a few containers before lugging them home.
Minagul, Ms. Hanifa's sister, says some of her children even wait to fetch water for other families, a job that earns them 10 or 15 cents. Thirst is evident on the dusty faces of small children, and in the expressions of older children who remember when it was better.
"We feel very sorry we ever left the camp in Pakistan," Shakila, 15, interrupts, as about 25 family members gather in a common room, its walls still pocked with shell craters. "We came back to our homeland, and look what we found," she scoffs.
Some of the hardships are obvious symptoms of postwar rebirth. Kabul roads, relatively easy to travel a year ago, are choked with traffic. Many prices have doubled in just six months. And each morning, day laborers pour into the city looking for work - mostly in construction - but find too few jobs to go around.
"The master plan has become a sort of stumbling block," says Mr. Mathema. "There is a kind of moratorium on construction, which is a pity because construction is a great income generator." Moreover, courts are choked with property disputes, and inundated with claims from refugees who want their land back, or whose homes - if standing - are occupied by someone else.
Preparing for winter
As Kabul careens toward winter, UN aid agencies and the Afghan government are readying a "Winter Preparedness Plan" that includes handing out items such as tents, blankets, stoves, coal, and plastic sheeting.
But organizers say they need $6.7 million to cover the plan's costs. Distribution has not yet begun, and the biting cold has already arrived.
Qurban, one of the family patriarchs in the squatters' home, is ready to pick up and leave.
"If I could find [President Hamid] Karzai now, I would tear his clothes and ask him where all the help is," says Qurban. "I would ask him, Why did you tell us to come home?"
For some, migrating back and forth between Kabul and Peshawar - whose milder climate once made it the "winter capital" of the Afghans - is time-worn tradition. But it was never the way of life for Qurban, a Kabul-dweller, nor others in his family. The house he lived in before the war is destroyed. Any money his sons can earn now is likely to fund their return to Pakistan, rather than rebuilding.
In kind, some 150 to 200 Afghan families a week are returning to Pakistan - and UN officials worry they won't all make it.
"If they do have the resources to go back to Pakistan for the colder months, than that's good," says Maki Shinohara, the Afghanistan spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "What we're more concerned about are the people who don't have the resources and will end up stranded somewhere in between."
Afghan Cold Brings Death to Children, Workers Say
Publication: New York Times Date: 12/12/2002 Author: Carlotta Gall KABUL,
Afghanistan, Dec. 11 - The deaths of at least 10 refugee children over the weekend, most likely from the cold, served as a sharp reminder to the government and aid agencies here of just how precarious the situation remains for thousands of displaced Afghans.
The deaths occurred in the south, in camps at Spinbaldak, close to the Pakistani border, Maki Shinohara, spokeswoman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said today. There were also unconfirmed reports that two more children had died in a camp at Chaman, in the no man's land between the border posts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, she said.
"We don't know yet why they died, but temperatures did fall very low on Friday night," she said. "This year the really cold weather has come earlier."
The victims were among 30,000 displaced people still living in tents and mud huts in border camps since the coalition bombing campaign against the Taliban last year. They are a mixture of people: nomads who have lost their herds and fallen into destitution; people who have left their homes because of the four-year drought; and families who fled the ethnic retaliation that flared after the Taliban government collapsed.
The refugees have resisted official efforts to move them away from the border region into a camp built recently outside Kandahar, in southeastern Afghanistan. More than 30,000 people have been moved to the new settlement, but an equal number have remained behind, saying they have a better chance to pick up casual work where they are.
They have continued to receive basic assistance, but many - in particular the Kuchis, or nomads - are still living in tents in harsh conditions. The refugee agency said it was rushing in supplies of blankets and quilts, stoves, fuel and clothing for the most exposed families. But aid agencies have warned that they remain short of money.
The Afghan minister for rural development, Hanif Atmar, called in aid officials today to hear their plans for assistance this winter, and international aid agencies warned that hundreds of thousands of people could be on the move as the cold worsens.
After surveys of every province in the fall, the refugee agency estimated that 560,000 people would be exposed and vulnerable, among them people living in the remote mountainous regions that may already be cut off by snow, and 300,000 displaced people, many living in scant shelter in southern Afghanistan.
All told, Afghanistan has an estimated 700,000 displaced people, as well as 1.7 million recently returned refugees, many of whom are ill prepared to survive the winter.
"Over all, we think it has got less bad than last year," said John Hayward, of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office. "But there are still very, very significant needs." The European Union is planning to aid 1.5 million people over the winter, he said.
At a news conference on Monday, he said his office expected to see displaced people and refugees move back to the cities this winter, and back into Pakistan. "We would expect there to be quite significant flows of people," he said.
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