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UN warns against neglecting Afghan refugees

UN spokesman urges COVID-19 support as Pakistan, Iran host 90% of Afghan refugees

Peter Kenny   | 14.04.2020
UN warns against neglecting Afghan refugees

GENEVA

The UN Refugee Agency on Tuesday urged greater support for Afghan refugees and the countries hosting them.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch in a briefing via video conferencing noted Pakistan and Iran host 90% of the 2.7 million Afghan refugees who have fled decades of war in their country.

Baloch warned that neglecting them in the fight against COVID-19 will have a “far-reaching and negative impact”.

"As the race against time continues globally, UNHCR appeals to the international community to boost solidarity with all three countries and have at this critical time to prevent a larger-scale outbreak of the coronavirus among the most vulnerable communities," said Baloch.

The UN agency noted that tens of thousands of Afghan citizens have crossed over from Pakistan to Afghanistan since the temporary re-opening of the border last week.

From Iran, while the number of Afghan nationals returning peaked at some 60,000 in March, around 1,500 individuals are currently returning every day.

He said that the novel coronavirus poses an immense threat to developing nations.

"An outbreak would put extraordinary strain on already fragile local health-care services and likely result in avoidable suffering and death," Baloch warned.

Lockdown measures and a sharp downturn in economic activity have left many Afghan refugees unable to meet even their most basic needs, he said.

"In both countries, those who are employed are commonly hired as daily laborers," said Baloch.

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