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Concern At Mounting Number Of Afghans Displaced

UN Agency Voices Concern At Mounting Number Of Afghans Displaced By Fighting

New York, Oct 3 2006 11:00AM

The United Nations refugee agency today voiced concern about the increasing number of people internally displaced in southern Afghanistan as a result of hostilities between government forces, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and insurgents, with 15,000 families uprooted since July.

“We expect further displacement may take place until conditions are safe for the population to return to their homes,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva. “This fresh displacement adds new hardship to a population already hosting 116,400 people earlier uprooted by conflict and drought.

Some families were reported to have gone back from Kandahar city to Panjwai and Zhare Dasht in Kandahar province during daylight but to have returned to the city at night as they felt it was too insecure to stay overnight, she added.

The Afghan government has created a disaster management committee in Kandahar to coordinate relief efforts together with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UNHCR and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), distributing plastic sheeting, blankets and warm clothes for children to approximately 3,200 families in Panjwai and Zhare Dasht.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food aid. The government is currently assessing the needs of the displaced in the southern provinces and UNHCR is ready to assist when it becomes clear what is required.

Meanwhile, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today that it will conduct a study on violence against education personnel to assess what can be done to improve their safety after last week’s murder of an Afghan women's rights defender and leading advocate of education for girls, Safia Ama Jan.

The study will be dedicated to the memory of Ms Ama Jan, who was gunned down outside her home in Kandahar.

“Her courage was an inspiration to us all,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement. “And her violent death serves as a grim reminder that those working to defend human rights, including and especially women’s rights, the right to education and education for girls, are often working on the front line, with their lives constantly under threat.

“National authorities and the international community must stand united against the forces that would seek to destroy the efforts made by people such as Safia Ama Jan.”

Ends

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