UN humanitarian chief appalled by conditions in Afghan informal settlements

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos (left), jokes with a group of young girls at a refugee camp in the Parwan Se district of Kabul, Afghanistan. UN Photo/Fardin Waezi

9 May 2012 – The top United Nations humanitarian official today voiced concern over “unacceptable” conditions in informal settlements sheltering displaced people and former refugees in Afghanistan, and called for greater support for durable solutions to alleviate their hardship.

“I was appalled by what I saw today and in particular the unacceptable conditions families are forced to endure in the heart of the capital city – women and children in particular,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, after visiting the Parwan Se informal settlement in Kabul, the Afghan capital, on the second day of a four-day visit to the country.

“More than a third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement,” she said, in a press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which she heads. “The reasons are many. There are those that are internally displaced due to conflict, recurrent natural hazards and lack of economic opportunity.”

An estimated 5.7 million former Afghan refugees have returned to the country since 2002, but reintegration has had mixed results. About five million other documented and undocumented Afghans continue to live in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, and almost 500,000 Afghans are internally displaced as a result of conflict or natural disasters.

Noting that displacement affects almost every urban and rural centre in Afghanistan and not just Kabul, Ms. Amos welcomed the Afghan Government’s commitment to finding a lasting solution the refugee and internal displacement problems.

“Meanwhile, we must continue to make every effort to ensure a dignified existence for all communities in need,” Ms. Amos added.

The humanitarian chief, who also serves as the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, met with some of the 80 families living in the Parwan Se settlement and witnessed their living conditions, which include little access to clean water and sanitation, and a lack of basic hygiene, health and education services, amid limited employment opportunities.

According to OCHA, the Parwan Se community receives some assistance from government-run medical facilities and international non-governmental organizations, such as Solidarités and Welthungerhilfe, but the support is inadequate and does not address the underlying causes of displacement.

UN agencies and their partners have appealed for a total of $437 million for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan this year – but only $105.5 million, or 24 per cent, of the required funding has so far been received.

The principal purpose of Ms. Amos’ visit is to raise awareness of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and to discuss with the Afghan authorities how the humanitarian community can help improve the Government’s capacity to respond to humanitarian needs, to prepare better for disasters and to build the resilience of vulnerable communities.


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