Story

Afghanistan Refugees: In Their Own Words

Safoora and her son Iman, Champtellah Returnee Refugee Camp, Jalalabad, Afghanistan

“We came back to Afghanistan from Pakistan last year. We had spent nearly thirty years living in the Maselabach Refugee camp in Pakistan. I had originally come from the Surkrod District of Afghanistan and left for Pakistan with my husband when the Russians invaded. But my husband died in the camp in Pakistan about twenty years ago. He first became disabled and then was very sick and died – I don’t know of what exactly. We had five daughters and three sons between us. One son was killed by the Russians before we left, and one son died from a disease that spread through the camp in Pakistan several years ago.

My last son, Imam, has mental health problems and lives with me here in this shelter. He developed these problems after his father died and we don’t know why. He was married to a girl he met in Pakistan but when I decided to return to Afghanistan last year with him, the wife and her family wanted her to stay there with their children. I think it is better that way though he misses his children a lot. I have one daughter who also lives with us in this shelter that we have made from plastic sheeting. We have nothing else to build our shelter with – we haven’t been given any assistance so we had to use what we brought back from Pakistan.

We were forced to leave the camp there last year when the Pakistani authorities came and bulldozed down our shelters. We didn’t manage to save much. They hardly gave us any warning that it was going to happen and even then we had no way of leaving. After the camps were bulldozed, the UNHCR started a repatriation process – they provided buses and a hundred US dollars per family to settle in these camps.

I have been allocated this small piece of land by Afghanistan’s government. We moved about three months ago from another plot up the road where we stayed for about fourteen months.  But we have no money to be able to build on it and it is only stones – there is no soil to grow anything on. I had to spend the hundred dollars on food and cooking utensils and now it is all gone.  We don’t’ receive any other assistance. We go if we need to be treated nearby at the International Medical Corps’ clinic. They have vaccinated the younger children as well. If we didn’t have this clinic, I don’t know what we would do because there is no way that we could pay for medical treatment.

My biggest wish is to be able to build a proper shelter – I am very worried about the impending cold as the winter approaches. Last winter was very very cold and plastic sheeting doesn’t give us any insulation. It is also getting harder for us to find firewood nearby because there are so many more returnees looking for new fuel. I am also worried about my son’s mental illness and that there is no man in our family to look after us. I can only hope that someone offers assistance soon as our food has nearly run out and the World Food Program does not do distributions here.” “We came back to Afghanistan from Pakistan last year. We had spent nearly thirty years living in the Maselabach Refugee camp in Pakistan. I had originally come from the Surkrod District of Afghanistan and left for Pakistan with my husband when the Russians invaded. But my husband died in the camp in Pakistan about twenty years ago. He first became disabled and then was very sick and died – I don’t know of what exactly. We had five daughters and three sons between us. One son was killed by the Russians before we left, and one son died from a disease that spread through the camp in Pakistan several years ago.

My last son, Imam, has mental health problems and lives with me here in this shelter. He developed these problems after his father died and we don’t know why. He was married to a girl he met in Pakistan but when I decided to return to Afghanistan last year with him, the wife and her family wanted her to stay there with their children. I think it is better that way though he misses his children a lot. I have one daughter who also lives with us in this shelter that we have made from plastic sheeting. We have nothing else to build our shelter with – we haven’t been given any assistance so we had to use what we brought back from Pakistan.

We were forced to leave the camp there last year when the Pakistani authorities came and bulldozed down our shelters. We didn’t manage to save much. They hardly gave us any warning that it was going to happen and even then we had no way of leaving. After the camps were bulldozed, the UNHCR started a repatriation process – they provided buses and a hundred US dollars per family to settle in these camps.

I have been allocated this small piece of land by Afghanistan’s government. We moved about three months ago from another plot up the road where we stayed for about fourteen months.  But we have no money to be able to build on it and it is only stones – there is no soil to grow anything on. I had to spend the hundred dollars on food and cooking utensils and now it is all gone.  We don’t’ receive any other assistance. We go if we need to be treated nearby at the International Medical Corps’ clinic. They have vaccinated the younger children as well. If we didn’t have this clinic, I don’t know what we would do because there is no way that we could pay for medical treatment.

My biggest wish is to be able to build a proper shelter – I am very worried about the impending cold as the winter approaches. Last winter was very very cold and plastic sheeting doesn’t give us any insulation. It is also getting harder for us to find firewood nearby because there are so many more returnees looking for new fuel. I am also worried about my son’s mental illness and that there is no man in our family to look after us. I can only hope that someone offers assistance soon as our food has nearly run out and the World Food Program does not do distributions here.”

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