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AFGHANISTAN: Call for help for IDPs, deportees in Helmand
Displaced children are exposed to hunger, cold and diseases
KABUL, 10 January 2011 (IRIN) - Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from insurgency-hit Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, need food assistance urgently, officials told IRIN.
About 900 displaced families in the provincial capital Lashkargah have little or no means to feed themselves and their children this winter, according to Ghulam Farouq Noorzai, director of Helmand’s refugees and returnee affairs department.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) confirmed that of the 3,800 families displaced from Nad Ali and Marjah districts during a major counterinsurgency operation
in February 2010, about 900 (300 from Nad Ali and 600 from Marjah) still remain in Lashkargah.
Despite government assurances about improved security and governance in Marjah and Nad Ali, IDPs said insecurity was impeding their return. Taliban insurgents harass and assassinate people who are deemed pro-government, launch hit-and-run attacks on Afghan and foreign troops and use improvised explosive devices
which often inflict disproportionate harm on civilians.
IDPs in Lashkargah have received non-food assistance (six blankets, two plastic sheets and four jerry cans per family) from the UNHCR, said spokesman Nader Farahad.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, said it assisted 27,000 IDPs in Helmand Province in 2010 and that an inter-agency assessment was ongoing to gauge needs.
WFP and other UN agencies are not present in Helmand due to security restrictions but implement aid projects through local NGOs and government bodies.
From June 2009 to December 2010 over 137,000 people were displaced by armed conflict across the country. The total number of IDPs is estimated to be 335,000, including many who have been IDPs since before 2002, according to UNHCR.
Aid agencies warn that an escalation of conflict in 2011 could displace more people
and lead to an increased need for protection and assistance.
Deportees from Iran
The problem in Lashkargah is being made worse by a steady influx of deportees from Iran who hail from the province or are passing through en route to their homes elsewhere, and are also seeking shelter, protection and food aid.
There are about 900,000 registered Afghan refugees in Iran as well as hundreds of thousands of unrecognized Afghan migrants. Since 2008 Iran has deported about one million illegal Afghan migrants. The UN and the Afghan government have frequently called for any deportations
to take place gradually to allow conflict-hit Afghanistan to cope with the influx.
Dozens of people demonstrated in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on 6 January after a local TV station broadcast footage of the alleged ill-treatment of Afghan migrants by Iranian border security forces. No one at the Iranian embassy in Kabul was immediately available to comment.
Over 286,000 Afghans were expelled from Iran in 2010 - 11 percent fewer than in 2009, according to UNHCR.
“Until these people [deportees] reach their homes in Helmand or elsewhere in the country they need food, health care and other basic assistance, but we have no means to respond to their needs,” said Noorzai, head of Helmand’s refugees’ department.