PESHAWAR: The Government of Japan has announced a contribution of $2.1 million to support refugees and their host communities in Pakistan.

The new funding will strengthen the United Nations refugee agency’s (UNHCR) interventions in the areas of education, healthcare, and water and sanitation — benefitting 70,000 refugees and host communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad, Punjab and Sindh, says a press release of the embassy of Japan in Islamabad.

Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Kuninori Matsuda and the UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Ms Ruvendrini Menikdiwela signed the agreement at a ceremony.

According to the press release, the project will be implemented under the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme, which is being supported by the international donor community in the spirit of ‘burden and responsibility-sharing’ and in recognition of Pakistan’s hospitality towards Afghan refugees. Through Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas, a wide array of projects are implemented across the sectors of education, health, livelihoods, infrastructure, water, sanitation and social protection.

Speaking at the occasion, Ms Ruvendrini Menikdiwela commended the people and Government of Japan for the contribution, which will allow the UN refugee agency to continue assisting vulnerable refugees to access better primary health care and improve the condition of schools.

She said the project will also help improve access to, and increase the availability of, potable water in communities currently hosting Afghan refugees as water scarcity, especially in Balochistan, has impacted the lives of people.

On the occasion, Kuninori Matsuda noted that “the Government of Japan greatly appreciates the tremendous efforts and commendable hospitality of the Government of Pakistan for having hosted Afghan refugees for four decades. I hope that this aid will not only provide access to education, healthcare and water and sanitation facilities to Afghan refugees and host communities but will also further strengthen the existing good relations between Japan and Pakistan.”

The ambassador added, “The Government of Japan is also pleased to continue supporting the UNHCR to assist the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to provide basic facilities to the Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan.”

The Government of Japan is UNHCR’s fifth largest government donor worldwide.