Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Refugees Still Waiting at Mokhtar Camp

Little help available for the thousands of people in a refugee camp outside Lashkar Gah.
Thousands of families are living as refugees in the Mokhtar camp, outside Lashkar Gah city, without getting any assistance from the government. The government says it’s time they returned to their homes. But those who are suffering at the camp say they don’t have any place to go home to.

Naqibullah Sultani reports:

In the Mokhtar camp, 5,000 to 6,000 families have lived in torn tents and ruined houses for the last six years. Women cook outside in the hot sun, where it can reach 50 degrees.

I can see children around me with torn clothes and bare feet, playing in the dust. The refugees include families from several districts of Helmand who left their homes due to NATO bombardments. Other families are from Pakistan, Iran or are “internally displaced persons” from other Afghan provinces.

Amanullah, a 60-year-old blind man, moved here from Musa Qala because of the fighting there. He came with his family. He has just one daughter, who is disabled.

He shows me a welfare application which he has submitted to the government, although he has not received any assistance yet.

“I have no land, no house,” he says. “I came here from Musa Qala. Look, this is my welfare application. The community leaders wrote here that I’m qualified to receive assistance. But they [authorities] won’t accept it and they don’t want to give me assistance. I’m selling popcorn from a trolley by the roadside. I’m blind. I can’t see.”

Walijan, who is wearing a big turban, says Amanullah is right. He says most of the people in this camp face serious problems.

“We moved here because of the bombing and fighting, and in the last two years we haven’t seen any assistance from the government or other agencies,” says Walijan. “We haven’t seen any school or clinic here. There’s no food and nothing to live off. The government has never helped us. They never established a clinic or a hospital.”

Another camp resident says he came to the camp when all his livestock died.

“I was a livestock farmer. My sheep died, so I was left hungry and I came here. This is the second year I’ve been here and I haven’t received any form of assistance.

Abdul Satar Mazhari, head of the refugee department of Helmand province, admits that the refugees in Mokhtar Camp have not received assistance for two years.

“The refugees in the Mokhtar camp haven’t been helped for two years. And when the assistance does come, only a small number of people who have good contacts with the authorities receive anything. That’s the fault of the government. Why don’t they distribute the aid to all the residents?” he asks.

This camp contains Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks as well as Pashtuns. Most of them say security is better here in Helmand than in their own provinces, and they don’t want to go back home.

Naqibullah Sultani for IWPR in Helmand.

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