ISLAMABAD: (Shamim Mehmood)
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency welcomed Tuesday the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to vaccinate Afghan refugees as part of its COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Afghan refugees who meet the criteria for receiving a vaccine have already started to register themselves in some areas. More than 10 refugees so far have received the first dose of the vaccine.
“It’s very important that Pakistan has taken this positive step of including refugees in its vaccination efforts. The virus doesn’t recognize whether a person is a refugee or a citizen. It poses an equal threat for all. Nobody is safe until we are all safe,” said UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan, Noriko Yoshida.
The National Command and Operation Centre – the body responsible for Pakistan’s COVID-19 response – approved the inclusion of foreigners, including Afghan refugees with Proof of Registration Cards (PoR) cards, in its vaccination programme. Afghan refugees are being vaccinated based on the same criteria applied for Pakistan’s citizens.
UNHCR is working closely with the Ministry of Health as part of a Technical Working Group to raise awareness among refugees about the vaccine, alongside representatives of the Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), UNICEF and WHO.
In an effort to support Pakistan’s fight against COVID-19, UNHCR has provided 23 fully equipped ambulances to different provincial authorities in Pakistan, as well housing units for use as isolation facilities, and water, sanitation and hygiene projects to boost prevention measures.
A cold chain facility constructed by UNHCR also now supports the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations, benefitting both host communities and refugees alike. Contributions of critical personal protective equipment continue to be supplied to health facilities that are serving refugees and host communities.
In welcoming the first vaccinations for refugees, Yoshida said, “UNHCR stands in solidarity with Pakistan and refugees. We continue to highlight the need for the international community to support Pakistan and communities around the country that generously host refugees and share vital services with them.”
Health interventions for host communities and refugees in Pakistan are also bolstered through the multi-stakeholder Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR). One of the core objectives of the SSAR is enabling solutions in Afghanistan and supporting refugee-hosting communities in Iran and Pakistan.