Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan in ‘very bad condition,’ says UN official

ISTANBUL: Most of the 327,000 Afghan refugees returned from Pakistan are in “very bad condition,” a UN official has said.

“Today, I’m here at the border with Pakistan in Torkham and I’m witnessing thousands of Afghans returning from Pakistan to Afghanistan,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Afghanistan, Daniel Endres, said on Tuesday on social media platform X.

“Most of them are in a very bad condition. They had to wait for days to reach here,” Endres added.

Tensions between Islamabad and Kabul rose after Pakistan launched a crackdown on undocumented foreigners, mostly Afghan refugees, and returned hundreds of thousands of them to Afghanistan in recent weeks.

“Since mid-September, a staggering 327.4K undocumented Afghans have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan. This sudden influx is putting immense pressure on already strained resources and capacity, including shelter and basic services. Additional support is urgently required,” said the UN official.

Endres stressed that another challenge is that “a major earthquake hit Herat. So all the tents, all the blankets, and all the relief items we have in this country, we have used in the response to that earthquake.”

“It is a huge challenge for us to respond to the returnees from Pakistan in this very moment. And huge numbers are coming,” he pointed out.

Emphasizing the importance of finding a temporary solution, he said: “Give them cash grants, food, water, it will be a major challenge above all for the women, for the children.”

Recent earthquakes exacerbated Afghanistan’s existing humanitarian crisis.

“More than 150,000 already vulnerable people have been affected by a series of earthquakes in Afghanistan,” said UN World Food Program Country Director in Afghanistan Hsiaowei Lee.

“They continue to suffer from earthquake after earthquake and storm after storm,” she stated on X.

“Almost half of children under 5 and a quarter of pregnant and breastfeeding women need life-saving nutrition support in the next 12 months,” the UN said in a statement on its website.

“The international community needs to step up to avert a humanitarian catastrophe across Afghanistan,” it stressed.

Last month, consecutive earthquakes in the western Herat province of Afghanistan, located on the border with Iran, caused the death of approximately 2,500 people, forcing the Afghan authorities to issue an international aid request.

More than 10 earthquakes, the largest of which was 6.3 on the Richter scale, wreaked havoc in 16 villages in the Zindejan district.

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