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U.N. sends 80,000 tons of food into Afghanistan

More refugees returning home

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The U.N. World Food Programme said Wednesday that it has sent a record 80,000 tons of food into Afghanistan so far this month.

In addition, the United Nations' refugee agency said the number of refugees returning to Afghanistan from neighboring countries has increased since the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

In a statement on the U.N. Web site, spokesman Jordan Dey said that 80,000 tons -- or nearly 4,000 tons a day -- "is an unprecedented level for Afghanistan."

Dey said the aid was sent via as many as 300 trucks traveling daily across the borders from Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

But Dey said the agency is having difficulty getting supplies into Kandahar.

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"The WFP warehouse and offices [there] were looted and destroyed, so we are currently looking for a suitable warehouse in the area," Dey said. "Staff, food and trucks are ready to move into Kandahar as soon as the security situation allows."

The number of Afghan refugees returning home from Pakistan and Iran continues to rise steadily.

Following the installation of a new interim administration in Kabul in late December, as many as 5,000 civilians have been crossing the borders daily, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a news release, Fatoumata Kaba, a UNHCR spokesman, said that "in southern Pakistan more persons are returning to Afghanistan after [the end of Ramadan]. Between Sunday and Tuesday, the number of those crossing from the Chaman area went up from 3,500 to 3,800 a day -- or more than 10,000 individuals."

According to UNHCR, 6,900 persons crossed back into Afghanistan in November, most at the end of the month, and that number has sharply increased during December.

"For December alone, the figure is five times higher, with some 31,000 persons having returned" as of December 25, Kaba said.

Kaba said that "most of those returning to Afghanistan are reported to be urban refugees seeking jobs with the U.N. system, the government, newly opening embassies or aid agencies re-establishing operations in Kabul."




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