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February 18, 2020

Afghan refugees complain of fewer facilities in camps

Peshawar

February 18, 2020

PESHAWAR: Ghulam Sakhi, an Afghan refugee, was 10-year-old when he along with his family had migrated from war-torn Afghanistan to a refugee camp in Peshawar and is still living there now with his own children but he says that the camp has no electricity for the last seven years due to which they were facing a host of problems.

Ghulam Sakhi told this scribe up to 900 families were living in some 200 clay-made homes at Khazana refugee camp, near Peshawar-Charsadda Road, one of the oldest camps established in the early days the Afghan nationals migrated to Pakistan in 1979. He said the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) had cut off electricity connection and even the electricity transformer had been removed in 2013 due to non-payment of the bills and ever since the camp dwellers were either using solar system or had no electricity in their homes. “We don’t even have clean drinking water inside the camp,” he added. At a time when the Pakistan government and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are marking 40 years of Afghan refugees stay in Pakistan, majority of the dwellers in the Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar said they have no basic facilities like electricity, drinking water, schools and proper health centres inside the camps.

Ghulam Sakhi, having a family of 14 members, said UNHCR had reduced facilities of health, schools and other basic incentives to the refugee camps and villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “There is only one Basic Health Unit (BHU) for the entire camp and a doctor visits the health centre two days a week to examine patients,” he said. He added that the same medical officer visits other camps on a rotation basis. Similarly, he added, the middle school inside the camp had now been downgraded to fifth class while the refugee girls have no separate school in the camp.

Another dweller of the same camp, Naseer Adil, said they were happy with the local people and community as the locals had provided them land and employment and also treated them like brothers but the UNHCR and other donor agencies had turned their backs on their problems.

“There is no proper road or bridge to the refugee camp and during rain or harsh weather, the camp residents were confined to their homes. “We use planks as a bridge to cross the small river and drains during summer,” he said and added that they faced numerous problems during hot weather and rainy days. He said that his brother and other family members had gone back to their hometown in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan as he was not feeling comfortable inside the camp but he had no resources to shift to a rented home outside the camp or make arrangements to repatriate to Afghanistan. “But peace has not returned to our homeland and we prefer to live in this refugee camp,” said Naseer, 43. Maulvi Ali Dost, another Afghan refugee living in Wahid Garhi camp, said that there was no school nor a proper basic health centre in the area where he was living with other Afghan refugees and for medical treatment, they visited Khazana refugee camp. “Most of the Afghan refugees are living outside the camp in rented houses but those who have no resources are compelled to live in the camp,” he said and added that the Afghan refugees were indebted to Pakistani government and people for providing them basic health and education facilities in hospitals and schools meant for the locals.