AFGHANISTAN: COLD TENTS FOR RETURNEES IN EAST

Mushrooming tents and mud huts built by returnees from Pakistan are turning a desert in Khogyani District, eastern Afghanistan, into a bustling settlement.

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Mushrooming tents and mud huts built by returnees from Pakistan are turning a desert in Khogyani District, eastern Afghanistan, into a bustling settlement. The Chemtala desert, about 25km to the west of Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar Province, is now home to over 6,000 returnee families, some of whom were expelled from the Jalozai camp in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province in mid-2008. The onset of winter is proving a challenge to many returnees who have little means of keeping their tents warm. When temperatures plunge to minus 2-3 degrees Centigrade at night, and children begin crying, many parents regret their decision of return. In addition to being cold, most tents and mud huts in the area are extremely vulnerable to rain and flash floods. Several people were killed and dozens of houses and large areas of agricultural land were destroyed by floods in recent years, according to the provincial authorities. Afghanistan has been the largest refugee recipient nation in the world. Five million have returned since 2002, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Nangarhar is second to Kabul in terms of the absorption of refugees. From March to November 2008, 276,000 refugees returned from Pakistan to Afghanistan.