On August 8, the first 102 families from the so-called 'Waiting Area' in Chaman, Pakistan were relocated by the UNHCR to a new settlement area called 'Zhare Dasht' (Yellow Desert), 30 kilometres west of Kandahar in Afghanistan. The UNHCR also intends to move the population of the five camps around Spin Boldak, on the Afghan side of the border. Intense political pressure by Afghanistan and Pakistan on the UNHCR has lead to this relocation plan for almost 60,000 Afghans.
These people are Pashtuns from the north and west of Afghanistan fleeing ethnic persecution, and Kutchis - Afghan nomads - from the south who are fleeing the drought. They have been given the choice to be either relocated to Zhare Dasht or to return to their place of origin.
What will happen to those who choose to stay remains unclear.
MSF has stated that people from the 'Waiting Area' have the right to seek asylum and should be allowed to be registered and transferred to the official refugee camps in Pakistan. The organization has also advocated for ongoing humanitarian assistance to those who choose to stay.
However as MSF has been working alongside this population since October 2001, the organization is committed to them and will continue to work for this population in Zhare Dasht.
MSF currently operates a; medical triage; measles and polio vaccinations; nutritional survey through weight for height; Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) rapid nutritional assessments; a health post in the reception area of Zhare Dasht; and has set up a first primary health care clinic (PHC) in the vicinity of the first settlement.
MSF is preparing for a maximum of three clinics and the possibility of therapeutic feeding centres depending on the outcome of the nutritional survey. Main concerns for the near future in Zhare Dasht is for the availability of food and water, and a possible influx of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from other regions still suffering the devastating consequences of a drought that has already lasted four years.
The Kandahar program also runs; a PHC in Daman Transit Centre for returning Afghans from Pakistan; the infectious disease ward in the hospital of Kandahar; contains outbreaks of infectious diseases through the early warning system; and is establishing a mother and child health program.
Presently five expats and up to 70 national staff are working in Kandahar.
These refugees have the right to seek asylum and should be allowed to be registered and transferred to the official refugee camps in Pakistan. The organization has also advocated for ongoing humanitarian assistance to those who choose to stay.