UNHCR Pakistan launches one-off cash assistance scheme for Afghan refugees

By Adnan Rafique

ISLAMABAD: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today launched a one-time cash assistance scheme for some 1.3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan affected by the devastating 2022 floods as well as the prevailing economic situation.
The assistance is being provided, in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan, to reach refugees who are not eligible to access social safety nets available to Pakistani citizens.
The initiative is modelled on the Government’s emergency cash programme for vulnerable Pakistani families affected by floods. Registered Afghan refugees will receive up to PKR 25,000, adjusted depending on the family size.
The Minister for State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Muhammad Talha Mahmood, and Habib Bank Limited’s Chief Representative, Mr Mohammad Ali Syed launched the scheme on Thursday with UNHCR’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Mr Indrika Ratwatte. Representatives from different donor countries also attended the event.
“We are honoured to work together with our long-standing partner, the Government of Pakistan, through its SAFRON Ministry, as well as Habib Bank Limited — for the first time — to support Afghans affected by the devastating floods and who remain in difficult economic circumstances.
This support comes in addition to UNHCR’s emergency flood response for Afghan refugees and affected Pakistani host communities,” said Mr Ratwatte.

He added “the partnership is UNHCR’s first private sector engagement with the country’s banking system and is a great example of the commitment of the Government and private sector in the country to find innovative approaches to support vulnerable Afghans. I hope this partnership is something we can build on further, including in the lead-up to the Global Refugee Forum later this year.”

UNHCR continues working with Pakistan as it recovers from the aftermath of last year’s devastating floods, with a special focus on areas hosting refugees. Some 800,000 refugees live in areas that were impacted by the devastating monsoon.

Muhammad Talha Mahmood, the Minister of SAFRON, welcomed ongoing international support for Afghan refugees and host communities in Pakistan.

“We have generously supported Afghan refugees in our country for over four decades. Even as we face our challenges, we remain committed to our promise to help. But we cannot do it alone and call for additional international support at this time in line with the global commitment to share responsibility for refugees made under the UN Refugee Compact.”

Habib Bank Limited’s Chief Representative, Mr Mohammad Ali Syed welcomed the opportunity to team up with UNHCR and the Government of Pakistan to deliver cash assistance.

“Our bank is committed to high standards of delivery and accountability. We are proud to do our part and to demonstrate how our advanced banking system can efficiently deliver this important humanitarian cash assistance to refugees in Pakistan.

Sustained international support for Pakistan is required to find solutions for Afghan refugees, particularly within the framework of the Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees. For more information: https://ssar-platform.org