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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Afghan clashes displace thousands
Afghan refugee camp
Many people are in camps or with relatives
Tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes by fighting in southern Afghanistan in recent months, the UN refugee agency has said.

Between 80,000 and 90,000 people had been displaced by the conflict in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, the UNHCR said.

The figure brings the total displaced in the area to about 200,000, it said.

Southern Afghanistan has seen fierce fighting between militants and Nato-led troops in recent months.

'More help needed'

The UNHCR said that it had distributed jerry cans, plastic sheeting, floor mats, lanterns, family kits and blankets to 3,200 families in Kandahar province, but that the fighting had added "renewed hardship" to a population already hard-hit by drought and earlier conflicts.

Map of Afghanistan

"We expect further displacement may take place until conditions are safe for the population to return to their homes," said Jennifer Pagonis, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Rahmatullah Safi of the Afghan Department of Refugees and Repatriation said some help had already reached those displaced, but more needed to be done.

"People have lost everything - their vineyards, orchards, schools and clinics," he said in a statement released by the UNHCR.

Haji Abdul Majeed, 48, fled to the city of Kandahar with his family from their home in the province's Panjwayi district.

"I will not return my family from Kandahar city until security has been restored," he told the UN agency.

There has been an upsurge in fighting between Nato-led and Afghan troops and the Taleban and their allies in southern Afghanistan following the alliance's expansion into the area at the end of July.

Deaths

Hundreds of people have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan this year, most of them alleged insurgents, but also a large number of foreign and Afghan troops.

There have also been a number of reports of civilian deaths. Independent confirmation of casualties is often near impossible to obtain.

Nato has claimed recent successes over the insurgents in Kandahar province and says it hopes it can now concentrate on its primary goal which is to provide security and extend the authority of the Kabul government.

Lt Gen David Richards, the commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), said last week that improvements were just around the corner.

"I am very confident that you will find that all the money out there will start to be put to a very good effect and the people will see visible improvements in their lives," he told the Kabul Weekly newspaper.


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