The World Food Program (WFP) has issued a statement, urgently requesting $26.3 million to provide support for the anticipated arrival of 1 million returnees from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
This assistance aims to help them endure the harsh winter conditions and sustain through the initial months of the coming year, the organization said.
WFP is actively engaged on the ground, collaborating with UN agencies and NGOs in a response coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The focus is on two crucial border crossings: between Jalalabad in Nangarhar on the road to Peshawar, Pakistan, and in Kandahar province on the road between Kandahar City and Quetta, across the border.
Amid a backdrop of over 6 million internally displaced people within Afghanistan, IOM emphasized the precarious and uncertain future faced by Afghans returning from Pakistan.
As described by WFP, mornings at the border witness cold temperatures, with men filling in registration forms for authorities and aid agencies. Families of returnees gather in the processing area, where children receive polio vaccines. WFP trucks distribute fortified biscuits, providing essential sustenance.
One returning individual, Mir Alan, expressed the challenges he faces, stating, “I am sad about the life I left behind and nervous about my future in Afghanistan,” as he strives to reach his home district 80 km across the border from Pakistan.
Forced returns come at a particularly challenging time for families already struggling to survive. With limited possessions and nowhere to go, those interviewed expressed uncertainty about surviving the impending cold months.
WFP described this season as a “countdown to zero,” where snow-laden roads can isolate entire communities during the long Afghan winter. WFP plays a critical role in assisting communities to survive by providing food assistance, allowing them to pace out their resources for a chance to start anew in the spring.
However, WFP faces a daunting challenge due to funding shortfalls in 2023, leading to a reduction in emergency food assistance to 10 million people in Afghanistan. The organization can currently support only one in five of those in need. Urgent funding is imperative to sustain life-saving support, especially for vulnerable returnee families arriving at the border with minimal resources.
WFP Afghanistan Country Director Hsiao-Wei Lee emphasized the critical situation, stating, “[We are] already critically underfunded, and, without additional funding, we will not be able to continue our support to these families who are arriving at the border with nothing but a few basics and some bread for their journey.” These families, arriving at a challenging time, face a bleak future in a country where economic opportunities are scarce, and survival is a daily struggle for many.