UN helps Afghan refugees affected by Bam earthquake to leave Iran

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 365 refugees who had survived the massive 26 December disaster in the Iranian city of Bam arrived back in their homeland in a UNHCR convoy.Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants waived the usual repatriation fee of $4 per person for the Afghans, who were processed and received landmine-awareness training at the border. Once in Afghanistan, they went to their home areas in Kabul and the provinces of Parwan, Balkh and Saripul, UNHCR said.Among those in the returning group were people mourning the death of relatives, including an eight-year-old boy who had lost his parents and a sibling, people who had been injured in the quake and others who had rushed to Bam to check on their families, UNHCR said.Meanwhile, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said Bam’s date plantation and livestock farmers were among the worst hit by the quake.The agency is seeking $2.5 million to help farming families as part of the nine-agency Flash Appeal launched last week for $31.3 million to pay for the 90-day preliminary rehabilitation of the Bam area.According to first assessments, the earthquake, which killed more than 30,000 people, injured another 30,000 and destroyed 85 per cent of the area’s buildings, seriously damaged the traditional irrigation infrastructure. Greenhouses, agricultural machinery and 38 date conservation and refrigeration units were also damaged.Repairing irrigation systems for the most affected date plantations and providing agricultural inputs and support for livestock farmers, who own a total herd of 45,000 large and 220,000 small animals, would be the main focus of its emergency assistance, FAO said.The Bam area also produces citrus, pistachios, vegetables and cereals, according to the agency, which said agriculture provides employment for over 25 per cent of the district’s population of 230,000 people. read more