ISLAMABAD - On the last leg of his three-day visit to Pakistan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antinio Guterres and Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Lt. Gen. (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch visited district of Loralai (Balochistan).
In his meeting with the authorities, Guterres thanked Government and people of Pakistan for extending hospitality to Afghan refugees over more than three decades, and stressed the growing importance of ensuring continued protection space for Afghan refugees in Pakistan in light of the challenging transition in Afghanistan.
With a view to concretely demonstrating international burden-sharing with Pakistan, the High Commissioner assured his support in the form of projects that will be implemented under the refugee-affected and hosting areas (RAHA) initiative throughout Pakistan, including in Balochistan.
The RAHA initiative is part of the 2012 multi-year regional Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) aimed at finding durable solutions for Afghan refugees in the region.
Ten United Nations agencies, including UNHCR and other partners, are working with the Government to implement RAHA projects that improve access to basic services for Pakistanis and the refugees they are hosting.
In Balochistan, including Loralai district, the primary focus is on education, health and social welfare sectors for around 60,000 people.
"Pakistan has generously hosted the world's largest refugee population for so many years, and it is important to mobilize more support from the international community to sustain this great effort and to fund RAHA projects such as these," the UNHCR High Commissioner said.
Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Lt. Gen. (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, emphasized the importance of the High Commissioner's visit to Balochistan and said that, "this visit will help to highlight the protracted Afghan refugee situation in the Province and its impact on the host communities and socio-economic infrastructure."
He acknowledged the support of UNHCR, particularly through the RAHA initiative, and he welcomed the ground breaking ceremony for a women's vocational training centre in Loralai worth USD 1.2 million. He further reiterated Pakistan's commitment to the SSAR, and sought greater support from the international community for its implementation.
The High Commissioner also visited Katwai Refugee Village, meeting with Afghan refugee elders to discuss their concerns that include the need for more support for people with special needs, better access to secondary education - especially for girls, and livelihood opportunities.
Guterres and Minister Baloch also visited the Government-run school for boys in Loralai town. The school is one of the seven schools, which have been rehabilitated under the Government-led RAHA initiative. During Guterres' visit to Loralai, the HC also visited the Basic Health Unit and a cottage carpet industry.
Guterres told the media, "The UN team in Pakistan is fully committed to the successful implementation of the RAHA initiative, and is appealing for more resources to support it."
While in Pakistan, the High Commissioner launched the Portfolio of SSAR projects, jointly proposed by the Government, UNHCR and UN partners, seeking USD 367 million from the donor community for the implementation of various projects across Pakistan.