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Japanese government to contribute $7 million for Afghan refugees

10 March, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Japanese government on Thursday announced a contribution of $7 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP) to support Afghan refugees and host communities in Pakistan.

The official announcement was made by Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch and Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Takashi Kurai during a press event in Islamabad.

Acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Assistant Representative (Protection) Tracey Maulfair, WFP Country Director and Representative Finbarr Curran and representatives from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Secretariat and KP government were also present on the occasion.

The Japanese government has allocated $3 million to UNHCR for implementation of its priority interventions in the provision of legal assistance to refugees in the country and its programmes in the areas of education, healthcare and vocational training. This generous contribution by the government of Japan will, in addition to providing legal assistance to an estimated 22,500 refugees in Pakistan, support an estimated 50,000 persons from the refugee population and the communities hosting them in accessing healthcare and education, as well as some 210 youths who will be undergoing vocational training courses throughout Pakistan.

The Japanese government has allocated the remaining $4 million to WFP to support 82,389 beneficiaries, including 42,874 children of 6-59 months of age and 39,515 pregnant and lactating women over the period of six months. It will enable WFP to procure a total of 1,097 metric tonnes of locally produced quality "ready-to-use supplementary foods" that will be distributed in four districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province - Peshawar, Nowshera, Hangu and Kohat - identified as the districts hosting the highest number of Afghan refugees and host communities.

Speaking at the occasion, Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the "interventions are in line with the government of Pakistan's priorities to ensure" provision of adequate nutritious food to Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan. "The government of Pakistan is committed to maintaining food security and protecting the Afghan population living in Pakistan. The government of Japan has been an active partner of the government of Pakistan in supporting the refugees and [their] returns, which contributes to the peace and stability in the region."

He said that Ministry of SAFRON would be working in close liaison with the UNHCR and the WFP to provide continuous support to Afghan refugees and host communities in Pakistan.

Speaking at the occasion, Ambassador Takashi Kurai said, "The government of Japan attaches great importance to supporting Afghan refugees and their host communities, which have provided shelters - so much needed to them - for more than three decades. With this grant from the people of Japan, assistance will be provided to host communities as well as Afghan refugees. I am sure that this assistance will significantly alleviate the burden on them. Japan has been assisting Afghan refugees in Pakistan and their host communities for more than 10 years with the grant aid of more than $200 million. I hope this grant aid will be fully utilised and put a positive impact, particularly on the young generations."

Acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Indrika Ratwatte expressed gratitude to the government and people of Japan for demonstrating their commitment and supporting the uprooted people. "Japan has always been a strong supporter of global humanitarian efforts," Ratwatte said, adding that with this contribution, the WFP and the UNHCR would be able to provide meaningful support and assistance to those in need.

WFP Country Director and Representative Finbarr Curran said that the government of Japan had been a key partner in ensuring food security and nutrition for temporarily displaced Pakistanis as well as Afghan refugees. "This contribution will provide timely support for the triparty agreement" - signed by the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran - "for the sustainable return of Afghan refugees to their country of origin," he said. "WFP foresees that the investment in nutrition will have a positive long-term impact on the economic development of both countries."

It may be mentioned here that Pakistan has been home to millions of Afghans for more than 37 years and continues to host the world's largest protracted refugee population.

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