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Study finds urgent socio-economic needs among Afghans

Crisis in Afghanistan, 3 September 2007

UNHCR Kabul Press Information, 3 September 2007

Questions are attributable to Mohammad Nadir Farhad, UNHCR Public Information Section, Kabul, Afghanistan.

KABUL, Sept 3, 2007 A lack of housing, jobs and safe drinking water have been cited as the main obstacles to the return and reintegration of displaced Afghans, according to a report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

Titled "Economic and Social Rights in Afghanistan II", the report the second in its series focuses on economic and social rights in Afghanistan, and outlines key challenges and recommendations to advance and protect human rights in the country. More than 11,000 people were interviewed from January to December 2006 in 32 provinces, with particular attention to vulnerable groups and people living in remote rural areas. The majority of interviewees were former refugees who had returned from exile and protracted internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The benchmark for the UNHCR-funded assessment is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which Afghanistan ratified in 1983. Other assessment indicators are Afghanistan's Millennium Development Goals and targets as well as the benchmarks provided in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and the Afghanistan Compact.

Among the key findings are:

Poverty: 62.3% of all interviewees said their household had no stable income. 64.7% stated that their household was in debt. More then 60% live below the poverty line, earning less than US$1 per day.

Healthcare facilities: Although 85.9% said governmental/NGO health care services are available, 36.9% indicated they were not using these facilities because of lack of physical accessibility, lack of services and poor staff quality.

Housing problems: More than one-third (36.3%) reported problems with their property, ranging from habitability, security of tenure and affordability. Lack of housing features as an obstacle to return and reintegration, affecting 67.1% of interviewed returnees who chose not to return to their places of origin, 67.3% who left their places of origin after return and over a third (43.4%) of interviewed IDPs.

Primary education: 94.4% said governmental/NGO primary education facilities were available for their children, but a third of interviewees said their primary-school age children do not attend school regularly primarily girls (36.7%) because of physical accessibility and boys (26.1%) due to child labour.

Effective remedy: Only 36.2% of interviewees approached the formal justice mechanisms to solve their disputes while 59.1% relied on customary justice mechanisms such as elders, Shuras/Jirgas, the family and the Mullahs.

Child labour: More than one-third (37%) said at least one of their children aged under 15 years works. Among them, nearly half (48.9%) reported that most or all of their children work an increase of 8.5% compared to last year's study.

Priority for the future: Over 85% of interviewees listed economic and social rights as their main priorities for improvement of the future. Job opportunities (17.5%), access to safe drinking water (15%), improvement of health facilities (12.3%), and education (11.2%), housing (10.7%) were all given higher priority than security (4%) or justice (3.1%).

Responding to these findings, AIHRC has urged the government to pay more attention to the situation of vulnerable groups when implementing the National Development Strategy. It has also called upon the authorities to consider its recommendations to improve compliance with their immediate legal obligations under the ICESCR and to identify areas to be prioritized during the implementation of the National Development Strategy.




UNHCR country pages

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

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Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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