Rehan Muhammad

PESHAWAR: A large number of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan have also been affected by coronavirus. No authentic data about corona cases and deaths among Afghan refugees is available, and solid steps for their vaccination are not visible.

Afghan refugees are entitled for vaccination through proof of registration (PoR) card, but vaccination of the unregistered refugees has become a problem. In Pakistan, there are about 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees, while the number of unregistered refugees is believed to be higher than that. Due to lack of vaccination, the unregistered Afghan refugees are facing even severe threat from coronavirus as they could not get vaccination.

It has been decided to provide free of cost vaccination to Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but several problems exist in this regard. Pakistani officials said registered Afghan refugees can send a message and upon getting reply can get vaccination from any centre. Afghan refugees say they are facing difficulties as they are not registered with Nadra.

Bilal Ahmed, a citizen in Peshawar, says there are a lot of Afghan refugees in his neighbourhood, but they could not get vaccination due to difficult registration process. He said unvaccinated people pose a threat to other people as well. More than half of the refugee population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is settled in Peshawar and they had to mix up with local population for daily activities.

Asmatullah, head of the Qaumi Jirga of Afghan refugees, says most of the Afghan refugees are not even aware what to do to get vaccinated. He said he also got to know about vaccination for refugees through media. He said many refugees have no access to media and they lack awareness in this regard. He said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) or Pakistani officials have not contacted the refugees about vaccination so far. He said the Afghan citizens, who come from different countries, get special vaccine, but this vaccine is not available for Afghan refugees.

The UNHCR spokesman Qaiser Khan Afridi said all registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan are getting the facility of coronavirus vaccination. He said talks are being held with Pakistani authorities for vaccination for unregistered refugees after completion of the vaccination process to registered refugees.

Most of Afghan refugees who have received complete vaccination are those who had to travel abroad.

Syed Akbar, an Afghan refugee shopkeeper in Board Bazaar of Peshawar, told TNN that coronavirus has affected large and small businesses alike. However, he was also found unaware of the vaccination facility for refugees. He said he earlier thought that the facility is only for Pakistani citizens.

A refugee vendor in Board Bazaar, Zakaria, said propaganda against vaccination is also turning refugees away from it. The family of another refugee, Zainullah has got first dose of vaccination, but after mild fever to them, they are now reluctant to get the second dose. Zainullah said awareness must be created among refugees about the importance and benefits of vaccination.



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