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Afghanistan, a country in South Asia and is landlocked with mountainous deserts with valleys and oases in between. It is situated between Iran in the south and west and Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north and China to the far northeast.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 5 million Afghan refugees has returned back to Afghanistan since UNHCR started their voluntary repatriation program in 2002 and 500,000 internally displaced people has returned back to their home towns and villages assisted by UNHCR. Over 2.6 million Afghans have status as registered refugees and remains in the neighbor countries. Largest numbers is in Pakistan where there is 2 million and Iran with more than 1 million along with a large number of unregistered displaced people.

The refugees flees back to Afghanistan

They are tired of waiting for peace and return to their homeland after years in refugee camps. The security situation has been the same in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and the drone attacks from the US side is making it worse.
Moreover, their presence in Pakistan at times is also uncertain, even though Pakistani authorities has allowed all refugees to stay in the country until 2012, still most take advantage of the offer while the majority return home.

Inflation and unemployment in Pakistan is also high, and the life in refugee camps and in other cities is difficult living in tents and lack of basic health care. Several said that life is difficult and shops also go bad while the police bothering and assaulting those who sell fruit on the trolleys to earn a living.
It is not only the uncertain security situation, which is the only challenge that will face them at home. The refugees receive 100 dollars per family member to move assistance from the UN, but after that they must survive on their own. They must provide shelter and a job themselves after arriving.

Challenges with the returnees

Almost 400,000 Afghans returned voluntarily back to Afghanistan, and more than 500,000 will return between the years 2008–2009 according to the UN numbers.

The challenges that are welcoming these people are not problems that can be solved over the night. One of the most important challenges is the conflicts about their home and land that are taken over by strangers.

UNHCR has registered throughout the years that 46% have difficulties to find a new home and 26% has lack of a stabile income. The corruption in the government and unstable situation does not tempt many more to return back.

The Iranian government has said before that the unregistered refugees that have reached 1 million in number can be deported anytime. In 2007 when Iran deported many refugees in summer of 2007, it led to a humanitarian and political crisis in Afghanistan.

Development challenges

Three decades of conflict have destroyed Afghanistan’s human, physical and infrastructure. Many citizens lack access to basic services, especially in rural areas. Of the total population only 28.1% can read and write. The literacy rate for men and boys are 43.1% and women 12.6%.

But even if it takes time some positive changes has happened since 2001.

  • School enrolments have increased from one million in 2001 (none of whom were girls), to more than six million today, over two million of which are girls.
  • Basic health services, available to less than 10% of the population under the Taliban, are now extended to around 85% of Afghanistan’s people.
  • More than 22,000 communities have identified and managed their own community infrastructure projects through the Afghan-led National Solidarity Program.
  • Almost 10,000 km of rural roads have been rehabilitated, supporting the employment of hundreds of thousands of local workers.

Current humanitarian situation

The ongoing poverty together with the conflict and natural disasters has left the refugees who have returned have been neglected and are in a vulnerable situation and millions of Afghans needs help to rebuild their homes and have a stabile life.

Only in 2010, over 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes and there are almost 400,000 internally displaced people all over the country according to the UN numbers.

The chronic need for humanitarian aid requires a sustained commitment from the international community to address the root causes of poverty. We all need to support and help these people so that they can build a life for themselves. There are many NGO working and doing such a great job. Everyone should support and give what they can.

Hatef Mokhtar

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