Afghan refugees hit hard in Pakistan floods

Dozens of Afghan refugees have been reported missing and thousands displaced by severe floods in Pakistan over the past two weeks, according to refugees, aid workers and officials. Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP) province, northwestern Pakistan, where most of the 1.7 million Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan are living, has been worst affected, officials said.

At least two camps, which accommodated over 5,000 refugee families, have been washed away by floods, Jamaluddin Shah, a Pakistani government commissioner on Afghan refugee affairs in KP, told the UN news agency IRIN. Floods have damaged thousands of houses in about 20 refugee camps out of 29 across the province, he said.

“Some displaced refugees have been temporarily sheltered at schools and in other buildings,” said Shah, adding that the exact number of Afghan refugees killed by the floods was unknown. “Dozens of people are reported missing,” he said.

The floods are the worst to hit Pakistan in decades. Hundreds have lost their lives, tens of thousands have been displaced and about three million people have been affected, aid agencies and government officials say.

“We have no shelter, no food and don’t know how long this catastrophe will continue,” said Abdul Wasi, a refugee in Azakhil camp, northeastern KP, where hundreds of houses have been completely destroyed. “My wife and two children are missing,” said another refugee, Zabiullah.

Diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases have been reported in several affected areas, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said in a situation update Aug. 2. In collaboration with other aid agencies, the WHO has sent mobile health teams to some of the worst affected areas in a bid to prevent outbreaks of contagious diseases. According to the UNHCR, over 90,000 refugees have voluntarily returned from Pakistan to Afghanistan since March. (IRIN, Aug. 3)

See our last posts on Pakistan, Afghanistan and the refugee crisis.

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