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ISLAMABAD: The United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, has said that his country is grateful to Pakistan for generously hosting Afghan refugees for more than four decades and that the US is proud to continue its support for this worthwhile cause.

“The United States is grateful to Pakistan for generously hosting Afghan refugees for more than four decades, and we are proud to continue our support for this worthwhile cause,” Ambassador Blome was quoted to have stated by the US Embassy in a statement here on Thursday.

Since 2002, the United States has provided more than $273 million (nearly Rs62 billion) in humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Pakistani host communities. In fiscal year 2022 alone, the US provided nearly $60 million (more than Rs13 billion) in assistance to the refugees and their host communities, he said.

He added that the US assistance is increasing school enrollment for Afghan and Pakistani children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan; improving Pakistani health care services and boosting nutrition programs in areas hosting Afghans; promoting livelihood activities for refugees and host communities; improving water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure; and supporting recovery from the health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Thanks to the generous and compassionate support of the American people, UNHCR was on the ground immediately to respond to the devastating floods of 2022 – providing life-saving relief items to Pakistanis and Afghan refugees,” noted UNHCR Representative to Pakistan Noriko Yoshida.

“The invaluable support of the United States has also been felt across the entirety of the UNHCR program – from increasing girls’ access to formal and informal education, saving lives through donations of critical equipment in provincial hospitals, and also giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to thrive thanks to an increase in vocational and skills trainings.”

UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Abdullah Fadil thanked the US for its generous support, saying that UNICEF has been able to make a positive difference in the lives of Afghan refugees and of the Pakistani host communities living next to them.

“We have helped prevent and treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, establish maternal and neonatal services which help mothers and newborns survive, and provide families with access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. We have also supported girls’ and boys’ access to education so that they too can one day become agents of sustainable change within their own communities,” he said.

Since the beginning of 2022, the US humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees and host communities has also improved health infrastructure in refugee-hosting areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The United States supported UNFPA and UNICEF to conduct renovations to health facilities, including updating labour rooms and purchasing advanced newborn care equipment, furniture, and patient care equipment.

In addition, health facilities received solar panels that ensure a continuous electricity supply. With US funding, UNICEF also helped families access essential health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene services in 70 health facilities, and provided nearly 50,000 mothers and close to 110,000 children with preventative and curative nutrition services.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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