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Afghan refugees

Starting over in Nangarhar

Pressured to leave Pakistan, more than 600,000 refugees have already repatriated to Afghanistan, which remains in the grip of violence and poverty. Meet some of the returning Afghans the IRC is assisting in Nangarhar province—where the majority of returnees are arriving, and moving onwards to urban areas like Kabul. Photos by Andrew Quilty.

  • These children stay with relatives as their father Shakrullah, 26 (not pictured), looks for work as a day laborer. Shakrullah was born in Pakistan but harassment and uncertain legal status forced his family to leave their homes in a camp for Afghan refugees. The IRC is supporting them with emergency cash.

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  • Two-year-old Abu Bakr sleeps under a mosquito net in the heat of the day in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar. His family, undocumented Afghan refugees, returned nine months ago after pressure from Pakistani authorities. When they arrived the IRC provided them with a tent and 17,000 Afghanis (£190) in cash they now use to pay rent.

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  • Women receive cash relief for their families at the Afghan government's Directorate for Refugees and Repatriation office in Jalalabad. The IRC distributes the cash, along with emergency supplies such as light blankets and water purification tablets, to returning families in need.

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  • Many of the refugees who are returning to Afghanistan have lived in Pakistan for decades, and will need support from the government and aid groups as they try to find shelter, jobs and schools. Those born in Pakistan will be caught between cultures, unsure of whether to identify with their ancestry or the land where they were raised.

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  • A year ago, while Rahmat Shah, 23, and his family were still in Pakistan, a propane cylinder used for cooking exploded in their home, severely burning Shah and his two children. The IRC has paid the family's rent for three months and provided cash grants, which have mostly gone toward treatment for the children's burns.

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  • Boys wash water buffalo in a river in Samar Khel, outside Jalalabad. Nearby, a wall is being built with funding from the IRC to protect a water canal from the river. The IRC has been supporting the Afghan people for nearly four decades as they endure displacement and poverty. 

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