UN refugee agency opens new office in Afghanistan to better track returns

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has opened its fourth office in Afghanistan in an effort to improve its capacity to monitor the movements of returning Afghans and distribute relief aid.The agency’s new office, which opened on Sunday, is located in Jalalabad, home to many of the approximately 1 million refugees now living in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. UNHCR also has an international presence in Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. The only key area where the agency has no office is Kandahar in the south, where security problems are hampering the relief effort.Despite the ongoing humanitarian and security problems in Afghanistan, many refugees have returned from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran in recent months. UNHCR estimates that 80,000 Afghans have crossed back since last November.At the same time, some 3,000 Afghans who left last week are still massed just inside the Pakistani border. According to UNHCR, the new arrivals said they had left because they lacked international relief aid, feared new bombing raids and were suffering the devastating effects of a three-year drought.

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