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UN Aid Chief on Afghan, Pakistani Needs

FILE - An Afghan refugee girl outside her home in slums of Islamabad, Pakistan.
FILE - An Afghan refugee girl outside her home in slums of Islamabad, Pakistan.
Ayaz Gul
A top U.N. humanitarian envoy says that there are ongoing needs both in Afghanistan and Pakistan that call for the continued attention and assistance from the international community. U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Chief Kyung-wha Kang has wrapped up visits to vulnerable communities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent days and says she is trying to focus global attention on the situation. She discussed with VOA the recent earthquake in Afghanistan, the security of U.N. workers in the country after the withdrawal of foreign troops, and how Pakistani military operations in the country’s tribal areas are affecting vulnerable communities.
 
Q: You visited Afghanistan few days after the landslide incident occurred and I understand you also had an aerial view of the disaster zone. Can you please share your experience and the discussions you had with Afghan officials?
 
A: The landslide in Argo in the Badakhshan province was a terrible tragedy and [caused the] loss of hundreds of lives. But it is not a single event, it is part of this flood that has affected the northern provinces. I think the displaced from the floods, the latest figures I… saw, is about 90,000. So it is part of a larger picture of natural disaster that every year visits the northern provinces. So, yes, there has to be emergency response to the affected people and I think between the local authorities and the international partners that response has been quite active. I understand there has been some confusion and complications but the initial response was immediate and displaced people immediately helped. But the longer term response has to be to see the single larger picture of the floods that affect so many in that region.
 
Q: Is the humanitarian community worried about its operations in the wake of international troop drawdown this year?
 
A: You know, many are talking about the future of the country after the political transition with a new president to be inaugurated later this year, with the withdrawal of the international forces. But, however you look at it, the UN presence will continue to be needed, the UN development and humanitarian presence in particular will continue to be needed and we are committed to staying further beyond 2015 for the longer term.
 
Q: How would you describe the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan after visiting that country?
 
A: It is a complex situation that combines both natural disasters and conflict related emergencies and it is a protracted situation. We expect the situation to either to remain the same or further deteriorate. We are not being alarmist by any measure but we are realistically preparing for these emergencies to continue.
 
Q: Attacks on foreigners have increased in Afghanistan lately. How worrying the situation is for UN Staff?
 
A: The insecurity is of course of a deep concern; we have staff in the country, we have staff in the field. So the security consideration is very much on our minds. We would like to provide a safe environment, the security set up that enables our colleagues to work and that is a very careful judgment and decision. But we are there. The security consideration is, how do we stay and deliver, not when do we leave. And our security colleagues are in close consultation with ourselves, the humanitarian to make that happen on a daily basis.
 
Q: You just concluded talks here in Islamabad with Pakistani officials and we often hear them complaining about a lack of funding to deal with the Afghan refugee population in the country. Did it come under discussions?
 
A: I think the international community is very grateful for the generosity of the Pakistani people and government and having hosted the enormous numbers of Afghan refugees over the years. There are still 1.6 million registered and over one, some say even two million, unregistered. And you (Pakistan) just renewed the agreement to let them continue to keep that status. So, that alone deserves a huge amount of gratitude. The funding aspect is a challenge.
 
Q: There are more than a million Pakistanis displaced by the anti-insurgency operations in northwest of the country and you also visited a camp for displaced people near Peshawar. But there are lately talks of a military operation in North Waziristan which is expected to cause more displacements?
 
A: We talk to the official constantly both at the national level and the provincial level. The government has provided very vital in kind assistance in terms of the food assistance. For example, just very recently 26,000 metric tons of food to support the WFP activities in support of the displaced people and we certainly hope that that will continue. That is not enough and therefore the international players or donors are here to make for that gap. We have heard of this campaign and we are of course concerned and preparing for the likely trigger of further displacement that that will cause and trying to make contingency plans for that.

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