ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Government of Balochistan on Thursday signed a cost-sharing agreement worth Rs 100 million to provide assistance and support to impoverished areas which have experienced the social, economic and environmental impacts of hosting refugees from Afghanistan since 1979.

This is a continuation of the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) project, which developed infrastructure and built social cohesion in 12 districts, benefitting 1.35 million people in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with European Union funding. The extension will seek to make up for shortfalls in achieving the original targets in Balochistan province.

The agreement was signed by outgoing UNDP Country Director Marc-André Franche, Balochistan Minister for Planning and Development Dr Hamid Khan Achakzai, and Additional Chief Secretary for Development Daud Barrech.

“The communities involved in the first phase of RAHA lag considerably in terms of human development and infrastructure compared to the rest of Pakistan,” said Marc-André Franche.

“Building social cohesion, stronger livelihoods, essential infrastructure and social and environmental protections helped build their resilience despite the strain caused by an influx of refugees needing assistance.”

Using €40.5 million in funding from the European Union, RAHA expanded from 23 to 102 union councils in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, directly benefitting 54 per cent of the population, against a target of 60 percent in these areas between 2011 and 2015.

Under the project, over 4,100 community organisations were formed to lead local development agendas and community and major infrastructure schemes (such as roads) benefited over 584,000 people.

Clean drinking water and education projects benefited 717,000 people in both provinces, while reforestation led to nearly half a million trees planted. The project also contributed to the only facility which provides free orthopaedic and prosthetic services in Balochistan.

The new cost-sharing agreement will expand on the gains made between 2011 and 2015, and consolidate them in some of the most deprived areas of Balochistan.