[Based on a report by RAWA]
Recently Pakistani authorities ordered the Jalozai refugee camp to be closed down. This camp includes Khewa and Sharwali camps which are home to several RAWA projects including Malalai Clinic. RAWA reports that in the past few moths they tried to convince the government to allow the Afghan refugees to remain in the camps for 2 more years as promised. But the Pakistani government will not budge.
The refugees do not wish to return to Afghanistan yet as the security situation has continued to deteriorate and the cost of living has escalated. In fact, food prices have almost doubled in the past two months. Additionally the unemployment rate is over 60%. The coming winter could also spell disaster for returned refugees who lack shelter.
A few weeks ago these refugees staged a protest rally and asked the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) to negotiate with the Pakistani government. They responded by allowing the camps to remain open for just 6 more months before the refugees are forcibly repatriated to Afghanistan.
Members of RAWA had a meeting with the residents of Khewa camp to determine their desires and needs. Many of them were very concerned about the education of their children as the new school year starts in a week and will continue for the next 9 months. If they have to leave Pakistan in 6 months, their children will be forced to repeat the school year in Afghanistan. Hence the majority of refugees prefer to leave now rather than later. Additionally, if they leave now each refugee will given $100 USD by UNHCR for the move. Some refugees also plan to move to other camps in Pakistan that are not slated for closure.
About 35% of the refugee families have decided to remain in the camps for the next six months.
RAWA runs half a dozen projects in the camp: Malalai Clinic, Naseems Shaheed High School for Girls, Shaheed Qubad School for Boys, two orphanages for boys and girls respectively, and two courses for adult women (literacy and midwifery).
The camp also housed a few successful income generating projects to help pay for other project expenses. These included two tube wells in the camp which provided more than enough water for the families – the excess water was being sold to the nearby brick factories.
Since the majority of families are leaving the camp, RAWA has been forced to make the following difficult decisions about their projects:
– Naseems Shaheed High School for Girls will be shut down and its funding transferred to Hewad High School in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The school headmistress, a highly skilled and hardworking individual, will also be transferred along with her family to Hewad. Hewad school is the only institution available to hundreds of poor Afghan refugees in the Rawalpindi area.
It was not possible for RAWA to move Naseems Shaheed school to Afghanistan because the original students will disperse to different areas and cannot be gathered in one area. Also, the rules for opening private schools in Afghanistan are very complicated and RAWA cannot open the school under their name as they are not a registered organization in Afghanistan (for security reasons). The cost of constructing a school in Afghanistan is currently very high (around $40,000) and operational costs are also very high. Additionally, it is extremely difficult to find qualified high school teachers in remote areas of Afghanistan.
– Malalai Clinic will be moved to a village in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan. RAWA has good relations with the people in that area who are in grave need of medical care. RAWA hopes to expand the services of Malalai clinic there to provide even more services for the local people. However, as RAWA is unregistered, they may encounter problems running the clinic openly and may have to use another name. The clinic relocation is expected to take 2 months.
– Shaheed Qubad High School for boys will be closed down and not relocated. The school was funded by general donations for RAWA and not by any single source.
– Among the refugee families, there were 12 widows who worked on various RAWA projects and were receiving salaries to help feed their children. These widows will be relocated to Jalalabad, Afghanistan and RAWA will continue to support them for a few months until they can find employment. RAWA intends to help them find suitable jobs. The support will include food and shelter. In return the widows will help with any RAWA projects as needed.
– RAWA analyzed the situation of each child in the two orphanages in Khewa. Children who have relatives that are able to care for them and help continue their education in Afghanistan, will be handed over to their families. The remaining children who have no one to care for them will be dispersed to various RAWA orphanages in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of the youngest children will be sent to live with families related to RAWA members.
– The literacy and midwifery courses for adult women will continue to function for the remaining families in Khewa and Sharwali camps. RAWA will support and monitor these courses and will make a decision about them in six months.
– As there are no other schools near the camps, RAWA will set up a temporary school for the children of those families who have decided to stay for an extra six months. The school will be in Khewa camp and will employ teachers from Khewa and other camps to teach up to eighth grade. Some portion of the expenses will be paid for from the sales of water to the brick factories. The rest will be financed by RAWA. Furniture and other equipment from Shaheed Qubad high school will be used by these students. The temporary school will serve boys and girls.
– Many of the RAWA members who were based in the camp will move out. RAWA plans to set up a council from among those who remain to run the camp and maintain security for the next 6 months.
– There are a lot of supplies and equipment that RAWA needs to move from the camps to Afghanistan. Some will be used in RAWA’s projects in Afghanistan, some will be stored for future projects and some construction supplies will be used in reconstruction projects (such as water canals, wind and solar energy etc) that RAWA maintains in a remote part of Afghanistan.
On behalf of RAWA we are calling all supporters to send in donations to help move the various RAWA projects and to help resettle the families in Afghanistan. Click here to make a donation. Click here to read RAWA’s appeal for help.