The United Nations refugee agency today began distributing winter supplies to some 34,500 families, or more than 200,000 people in Afghanistan as night-time temperatures have plummeted to below freezing across the Asian country.
The winter supplies include blankets, plastic sheets, sweaters, shawls, gloves, socks, waterproof shoes, gas, charcoal and coal – to help them stay warm and dry through the bitter winter.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners handed out blankets, plastic sheets, warm clothes and fuel to more than 300 families in the Dahsabz district of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on the first day of the distribution.
“This joint winter assistance programme is vital for returnees and internally displaced people (IDPs) who are at particular risk during the cold winter months in Afghanistan.” – Jamaher Anwary, the Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Beneficiaries include households that are run by women with no adult male support, families with elderly or disabled members and families with many children, said Peter Nicolaus, the UNHCR Representative in Afghanistan.
As in previous years, UNHCR is focusing its winter assistance effort on isolated rural areas.
Afghanistan’s annual harsh winter hits and homeless millions suffer from deplorable conditions – lack of warmth, clothing, shelter, and a warm meal.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, UNHCR has helped some 4.6 million Afghan refugees to return home voluntarily. Nearly three million registered Afghan refugees still live in exile in Pakistan and Iran.
Lack of jobs, food, shelter and security in parts of the country has made it harder for returnees to remain in their villages, according to UNHCR.
The agency and the Afghan Government are engaged in a consultative process involving neighbouring Iran and Pakistan to develop a strategy to support the refugees.