U.N. food agency appeals for $152 million in aid for Afghan refugees

November 13, 2016 6:49 AM EST

An Afghan family, who were living as refugees in Pakistan, carries bundles of supplies at a humanitarian aid station in Torkham, Afghanistan, October 22, 2016. REUTERS/Josh Smith

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KABUL (Reuters) - The United Nations on Sunday appealed for $152 million to provide shelter, sanitation and food for a huge influx of refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Pakistan has stepped up the pressure for its 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees to return home, citing security concerns. Refugees and others see Islamabad as driven by a strengthening in Afghan-Indian relations while its own ties with India are fraying.

Thousands are crossing the Torkham border with Pakistan each day, said the World Food Programme, the UN's food assistance branch. Last month, the U.N. said nearly 170,000 Afghans had returned this year, many of them citing harassment by Pakistani authorities.

The flow of returnees from not only Pakistan, but also Iran, is straining the capacity of the government and aid agencies as yet more Afghans are uprooted by the war between Taliban insurgents and Afghan troops.

"We need sufficient and timely funds, in the coming weeks and months, to ensure that we can help returnees as rapidly and efficiently as possible," said Mick Lorentzen, WFP's country director in Afghanistan.

"A quick and focused response to this crisis will ensure that more people do not fall into chronic food insecurity."

WFP officials have warned that a funding squeeze caused by the spread of crises across the Middle East and Africa, threatened its operations in Afghanistan, where 40 percent of people are estimated to face "food insecurity".

(Reporting by Randy Fabi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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