THE Covid-19 pandemic has affected every country. However, the worst affected are refugees living in pathetic conditions in many regions of the world.
There are millions of Afghan refugees still in Pakistan, most of whom live in camps. They face extreme poverty, overcrowding, lack of access to health facilities, clean drinking water, education, and earning opportunities.
Many of these refugees have mental health issues as their movements are restricted if they do not possess Proof of Registration (POR) cards, Afghan citizen cards and have visa fee renovation issues while crossing borders.
After the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the Afghan refugees’ problems have increased manifold as a majority of them are daily wagers and they need to earn to buy rations to sustain their families. The most vulnerable amongst them are the elderly, people with disabilities, women and children. To make matters worse, the refugee are not entitled to benefits from social protection programmes like BISP, Ehsas and zakat disbursement. One is at a loss to understand how refugees can maintain social distancing with entire families living in one tent. The basics like soap and water for washing are a luxury for them.
These Afghan refugees are no longer supported by the big donor agencies as most of them have either fully stopped their support or drastically reduced aid to them. In realpolitik they are a liability which is a violation of humanitarian principles and condemned by all religions and moral systems.
In these critical days the world community and donor agencies need to step forward and address the Afghan refugees’ plight on an emergency basis.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2020