Afghan refugees continue to seek shelter in Pakistan

Afghanistan, November 21, 2001

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    A father and son at the Killi Faizo refugee camp in Pakistan. Photo: Scott Heidler/Mercy Corps Photo:

A recent stream of Afghan refugees crossing the border into Pakistan has sped up the transfer of refugee families from a temporary refugee camp to a more permanent camp at Roghani near the Chaman border crossing.

“The reason this transfer has been going so quickly is that a lot of refugees have been coming across the border in the past week,” said Mercy Corps Information Officer Scott Heidler in a phone interview today from Islamabad, Pakistan.

“The border had been closed and this caused a bit of a backlog, but now things seem to be normalized a little bit.”

The new refugees are initially being cared for at the Killi Faizo border staging camp where they receive medical treatment and food supplies, and are expected to stay for about a week. With the transition camp exceeding its capacity and new refugees arriving daily, Heidler says there is an even greater emphasis to quickly move many refugees to the Roghani camp which can accommodate up to 40,000 people.

Heidler says the Roghani camp currently houses approximately 4,200 refugees and is designed to grow in multiple phases.

Mercy Corps is working with UNHCR and other organizations to distribute food and non-food items to families staying at both Killi Faizo and Roghani.

Mercy Corps also has an assessment team in the formerly Taliban-controlled city of Taloqan in northern Afghanistan. The team is working with the United Nations to evaluate the needs of the impoverished region.

“We are one of the first NGOs in that area and right now we are determining what will be the best operations for us,” Heidler said.

Heidler reports that the assessment team has learned that the region does have a limited amount of food, but that many people are unable to access it.

“The challenge here is that people just don’t have money. That is why we are trying to explore innovative ways that these people can get cash in their pockets quickly,” he said.