ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) is providing €10 million (Rs1.9 billion) to significantly boost the UNHCR’s assistance for Afghan refugees and their host communities in Pakistan. The funding will focus on mitigating the short and medium-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this funding, UNHCR will expand its health response as well as improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in refugee and host communities. Another important component of the new project will be implementing activities that help protect and empower vulnerable Afghan refugees and host communities, including through livelihood opportunities.
The three-year project will be implemented across the country and is expected to benefit some 370,000 Afghan refugees and Pakistani host communities.
The Ambassador of the EU delegation to Pakistan, Ms. Androulla Kaminara, and UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan, Ms. Noriko Yoshida, signed the agreement at a ceremony on Monday. The agreement coincides with the quadrennial Afghanistan Conference held in Geneva, intended to present an important opportunity for the Afghan government and the international community to commit to common objectives for promoting sustainable development, prosperity and peace in Afghanistan.
Since July 2018, the EU has contributed €37 million from its development budget and €10 million from its humanitarian resources to support the Afghan refugees and their host communities, in particular through UNHCR’s regional programmes.
In May 2020, the EU announced a €150 million package to support Pakistan’s efforts in addressing the short-term and long-term public health and socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including this new funding of €10 million for UNHCR. This funding will be channelled towards three sectors: health, WASH and social protection.
In the health sector, it will boost health initiatives by helping to provide personal protective equipment, medical supplies and other relief items to health facilities in support of refugees and host communities. Community outreach on the prevention and response to COVID-19 will also be strengthened.
In the WASH sector, the EU’s contribution will help enable UNHCR to upgrade or construct facilities such as toilets, wash basins and water pumps in schools, health centres and communal facilities in or close to refugee villages – benefitting both refugees and Pakistanis. In terms of social protection, the assistance will contribute to UNHCR’s emergency cash programme for the most vulnerable registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
The one-time cash assistance mitigates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by helping refugees meet their basic needs. In addition, the project – covering a three-year period – aims to support the COVID-19 recovery through medium-term interventions, such as income-generating activities and technical and vocational skills training. This will ultimately help provide new skill sets to both refugees and their host communities.