A Refugee Story: Abdul returns to an unfamiliar home

A Refugee Story: Abdul returns to an unfamiliar home

More than 335,000 undocumented Afghans have returned home to Afghanistan since the beginning of January this year due to diverse push factors, including deteriorating protection space in Pakistan and Iran. Abdul Raziq is one among the thousands, who came back to his homeland from Pakistan in September 2015. Twenty-six years ago, the then five-year-old Abdul migrated from Marawara district of Kuner Province in Afghanistan to Pakistan with his family. In Pakistan, they settled in a Kacha Abadi1 in Rawalpindi where his father and brothers earned an income through general labor in nearby areas.  Soon after, young Abdul also joined them as a laborer in a brick factory and earned a daily wage of PKR 2,000 (approx. USD 17). The family was living in a mud house of five rooms in the kacha abadi and was making ends meet. At the age of twenty, Abdul got married in Pakistan and is now a father to five children; three daughters and two sons.

In August 2015, the police launched an unannounced operation against the Katcha Abadi and we were given very limited time to collect our belongings and were asked to return to our native lands. They had to clear the area immediately,

 added Raziq sadly,

We returned to Afghanistan. We were however unable to return to our native hometown, Marawara in Kuner Province as there were ongoing protests and political conflicts in the area. Instead, we settled in Haji Baqqi desert in Khiwa district in the Nangarhar province.

Living in seclusion, about eleven kilometers away from the centre of the Khiwa district and nearly twenty-one kilometers from Jalalabad city, Abdul’s family was deprived of many of life’s basic amenities and services. Haji Baqqi had no local markets, schools, clean drinking water sources, health centers, agriculture land or local transportation services. It was just a piece of barren and isolated land. Travelling to the nearest healthy facility would cost AFN 3000 (approx. USD 42). Abdul’s family was cut off from anything that resembled a normal life. And in such circumstances, they could not even afford to fall ill.

In April 2017, Community World Service Asia’s Mobile Health Team in Afghanistan visited Haji Baqqi. The team conducted a thorough check-up of Abdul’s family and two of his youngest sons were vaccinated as well. They were also checked for symptoms of malnutrition which was ruled out, but they were likely to be diagnosed for it if they did not adopt a healthier diet.  The family received health and hygiene sessions and a diet chart to follow for intake of healthier food to improve their health. Abdul’s wife, who conceived late in 2017, also received antenatal care during the mobile team’s visit.

The health team was very cooperative and efficient in providing health services. I realized the importance of the health of mother and child and took better care of myself. I ate clean vegetables, pulses and took my vitamins timely. Moreover, the health and hygiene session has guided our family on the importance of living in a clean and healthy environment. The hygiene kit provided by the health team, consisting of water containers with lids, soaps and cleaning cloths, has helped in developing a good practice of keeping ourselves and our home clean,

 shared Abdul’s wife happily.

Community World Service Asia has been providing health services through mobile health units to repatriated and temporarily displaced communities in Afghanistan. Through our humanitarian health projects, we try to ensure that health services reach the most vulnerable and inaccessible returnee families at their door stop or in their village. Our health facilities include health centers and mobile health trucks that provide free consultations, free medicines, ambulance facilities for critically ill patients, antenatal and postnatal care and vaccination for mothers and children. Our health program has assisted 178,140 returnees and uprooted communities since 2016 Five hundred families have received hygiene kits and 31,500 individuals have been sensitized through hygiene promotion sessions. More than five hundred families have also been provided tents and blankets through our humanitarian initiatives, supported by Japan Platform and PWS&D, for returning families in Afghanistan.

An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been uprooted from their homes, UNHCR reports. Nearly 25.4 million of these displaced communities are refugees, more than half whom are under the age of 18. First marked in 2001, World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th. On this day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states,

tens of thousands of people around the world take time to recognize and applaud the contribution of forcibly displaced people throughout the world. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

According to UNHCR’s statistical yearbook published in 2018, there are 22.5 million refugees recognized globally, of whom 17.2million are under the UNHCR mandate. Turkey is on top of the hosting countries, hosting 2.9million people followed by Pakistan, which has hosted 1.4million people. Syria is the top most country where 5.5million of their people have taken refuge in other countries. More than 2.5 million Afghanis are living as refugees in other countries.

The sufferings and challenges faced by returnees are similar to or in some cases even worse than that of refugees. As a registered refugee, one is at least ensured basic rights such as food, shelter, health, water and sanitation by hosting countries. Whereas in the case of most returnees, the support provided to them is not enough to cover the needs of a complete family. Community World Service Asia is committed to helping refugees and returnees and providing hope for a better life. Our projects provide health assistance in Laghman and Nangarhar Provinces of Afghanistan, with continuous support to returnees through the provision of food and non-food items.

1 A kind of a shanty town where homeless and underprivileged people live in temporary huts made from wood such as branches of trees and roofs made of tin foil.