The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group. The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981.
UNHCR’s 200 staff members in Islamabad, Quetta and Peshawar also care for several thousand asylum seekers and non-Afghan refugees from the region and Africa.
UNHCR maintains 54 recognised refugee villages (RVs) in the country; however, about 70 percent of registered Afghans reside urban areas. In these villages, UNHCR in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and NGOs is providing basic community-based services like primary school education, basic health care, water and sanitation.
Since 2002, in what has become the world’s largest assisted return programme, UNHCR has been facilitating voluntary repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. Ten years after program began; UNHCR has assisted 4.1million Afghans to return home.
In 2009, in recognition to Pakistan’s hospitality towards refugees, the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative was launched, under the joint One UN programme with an initial appeal of US$140 million over five years. Projects implemented under the RAHA initiative are designed to improve the lives of people living in locations that have been impacted by the 37-year presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. A total of 3500 RAHA projects have been implemented in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh.