Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
January 10, 2003
Humanitarian Success Stories In Afghanistan
More than Two Million Afghan Refugees Return Home
More than two million refugees have returned to Afghanistan in 2002,with 1.8 million of those returns from Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian republics facilitated by UNHCR. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides refugees with a transportation allowance, wheat, and a household package to help them return to their homes. The most needy 40,000 families receive a shelter kit so they may rebuild their homes. Afghans have shown their faith in the new Afghan government and their trust in the international community by returning in record numbers. State Dept./PRM has provided $67.3 million to UNHCR, most of which was used to help returning refugees. State/PRM also provided $7.8 million to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) both to facilitate return of IDPs and refugees and to provide emergency humanitarian assistance for IDPs and other vulnerable persons. Implemented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration.
Emergency Assistance to Conflict Victims and Other Vulnerable Persons
Since September 11, 2001, State/PRM has provided $24.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for its Afghan operations. ICRC has provided protection and emergency assistance to about 1 million conflict victims, prisoners, and vulnerable persons in Afghanistan. ICRC's food and non-food item distributions in remote and largely inaccessible areas of the central highlands have been especially critical during the winter months. Additionally, ICRC has monitored the situation of persons captured during the recent fighting and provided ongoing basic support for medical facilities around the country. In a country where landmines are a prevalent threat, ICRC's efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of mines and other unexploded ordinances and its provision of prosthetic/orthotic services remain critical.
Education for Afghanistan's Children
Over three million Afghan girls and boys returned to school in March 2002, far exceeding the most optimistic target of 1.5 million children. With the help of a $2.0 million contribution from State Department/PRM, UNICEF, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, promoted and implemented a "back to school" program that reached all areas of Afghanistan. Back-to-School Project distributed 6,000 school tents to serve as temporary classrooms, 15 million textbooks (purchased by USAID), 30,000 supplementary material and teaching kits to nearly 7,000 schools. With UNICEF's support, the Afghan government has conducted a nationwide rapid education assessment and has incorporated mine awareness sessions into the formal curriculum. This cooperation is building the capacity of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan to meet the long-term education needs of its citizens and ensure a more stable future in Afghanistan. Implemented by the United Nations Children's Fund.
Primary, Maternal, and Child Healthcare for Afghan Refugees and Returnees Rebuilding Afghanistan's healthcare system, which was devastated during decades of conflict and intentional neglect under the Taliban, is a critical part of the ongoing reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. In 2002, State/PRM provided over $3.5 million to the International Medical Corps (IMC) to rehabilitate more than a dozen health clinics, train Afghan healthcare workers, and provide primary, maternal, and child healthcare to thousands of refugees and returnees in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In order to ensure that returning refugees have access to healthcare in Afghanistan, IMC rehabilitated and reopened clinics in three provinces of high refugee return in eastern Afghanistan and has begun linking trained Afghan refugee doctors and nurses with clinics and hospitals in their home communities. With State/PRM support, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have to date successfully immunized over 15 million Afghan children against polio and over 8 million children against measles. State/PRM also contributed $1.0 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its provision of basic health services for returning refugees throughout the country. Implemented by International Medical Corps, United Nations Children's Fund, and World Health Organization.
Over 30% of Afghanistan's houses were destroyed during the years of conflict - that figure rises above 50% in areas that were on the front line. One of the groups most in need of shelter assistance prior to the winter are the returning refugees, many of whom left their homes intact and returned to find them damaged or destroyed. It is estimated that more than 100,000 returnee families need shelter assistance. State/PRM recently provided nearly $5.8 million to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Shelter for Life (SFL), Community Housing Foundation (CHF), and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) for shelter rehabilitation projects benefiting recently returned Afghan refugees. These nongovernmental organizations aim to provide shelter materials and on-the-job construction training to over 11,000 homeless families before the onset of winter. Implemented by Catholic Relief Services, Shelter for Life, Community Housing Foundation, and Aga Khan Foundation.
Vocational and Literacy Training for Afghan Women
Education and vocational training for Afghan women is vital for the development of a democratic Afghanistan. To this end, State/PRM recently provided funding to Church World Service (CWS) for a project that targets nearly 2,000 female heads of household in Kabul for literacy training and income generation activities. The project provides much-needed livelihood opportunities for one of the most vulnerable groups in Afghanistan by engaging beneficiaries in quilt-making for cash, literacy classes, and awareness-raising workshops. Implemented by Church World Service.
Additional Reintegration Assistance for Returning Refugees
Due to decades of armed conflict, several years of devastating drought, and Taliban misrule, the country's agricultural, physical, and economic infrastructure has been neglected and significantly damaged. Therefore, it remains critical to focus on rebuilding Afghanistan's infrastructure—particularly to ensure that communities have the capacity to absorb large numbers of returning refugees and IDPs. The USG has supported IO and NGO efforts to ensure that returnees and IDPs become anchored in their home communities. For example, with significant support from State/PRM, UNICEF has rehabilitated water and sanitation facilities in areas of the country to which large numbers of refugees have returned. Additionally, PRM recently supported projects implemented by Mercy Corps International (MCI) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) that seek to stabilize communities and reduce additional population displacements brought about by drought and insecurity. Both projects ensure that water use is prioritized for human consumption, health, and hygiene, while also repairing damaged irrigation systems and promoting efficient water use in the agricultural sector. Implemented by UNICEF, MCI, IRC.
Since the beginning of the current Afghan crisis, the Department of State has taken a leadership role in promoting coordination among donors, the UN, and the Afghan government. From the outset, the USG has urged that the UN and Afghan government coordinate closely in order to ensure that critical humanitarian needs are met, while the UN builds the capacity of the Afghan ministries to ultimately take full responsibility for the relief to rehabilitation process. Despite concerns that the UN would leave a heavy footprint in Afghanistan and would absorb a disproportionate share of international resources from the Afghan government, State/PRM led the USG in encouraging the UN to share its vast experience and capacity with the nascent Afghan government. The resulting Program Secretariats model, whereby international organizations are paired with Afghan ministries in each sector, has achieved remarkable successes in coordinating assistance and building Afghan capacity. The USG also consistently has urged effective information management by the Afghans, the humanitarian organizations, and other donors throughout the current Afghan crisis. State/PRM provided $660,000 to UNDP for the Afghan Information Management System (AIMS) and Project Management Information System (ProMis), which seeks to ensure that all parties involved in humanitarian activities have access to accurate and timely information on which to base their decisions. State/PRM also contributed $3.6 million to UNOCHA at the beginning of the current Afghan crisis to support interagency coordination during the Afghan emergency.
The USG has consistently pressed other major donors to ensure that they share responsibility for meeting critical humanitarian and reconstruction assistance needs. Through formal mechanisms such as the Afghan Support Group, and informal donor meetings in Washington and Kabul, the USG repeatedly insisted that it should not bear a disproportionate share of the burden for meeting the food and refugee return and reintegration needs of the UN agencies. In the early stages of the current emergency, USAID had provided about 80 percent of the World Food Program's funding and State/PRM also had provided more than its fair share for UNHCR's return and reintegration funding. However, the USG's burden-sharing message ultimately got through and the European Commission responded by contributing additional significant contributions to WFP and UNHCR.
Achieving lasting stability and security in Afghanistan will depend on a number of factors, including effective means of addressing past and present human rights abuses. For example, some of the two million refugees who recently returned home have faced mistreatment and abuse in their home communities and further population displacement could occur if such treatment is not effectively addressed. To this end, the Department is seeking to strengthen the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and launch an effective human rights program for Afghanistan. Recently, at the Department's urging, the UNHCHR submitted a proposal to build the capacity of the AIHRC to investigate past and present abuses, disseminate information, and train Afghans about the principles of international human rights law. State/DRL has committed some funding and the USG will encourage other donors to contribute funds to launch this human rights project.