Afghans help to build shelter for Balochistan's quake survivors

News Stories, 24 December 2008

© UNHCR/D.A.Khan
Afghan refugee carpenters building transitional shelters in Ziarat, one of the areas in Balochistan most affected by the October 29 earthquake.

KAWAS, Pakistan, December 24 (UNHCR) For years they were considered passive recipients of humanitarian aid, but Afghan refugees are now using their skills to help their local hosts in the earthquake-hit areas of south-western Pakistan.

Pakistan's Balochistan province has always been prone to natural disasters like floods, drought and earthquakes. On October 29 this year, the northern parts of the province were hit by a devastating earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, leaving behind enormous destruction.

According to government estimates, 166 people were killed and more than 370 were injured. Reports indicate that around 68,200 people were affected and some 7,600 houses were damaged. After the first winter snow in mid-December, the problems of the affected population have doubled. Their immediate needs are for winterized shelter that can withstand the harsh winter and adequate food for three months.

Through its implementing partners, UNHCR distributed 950 tents, 2,880 plastic sheets, 140 cooking sets, 4,800 blankets, 720 jerry cans and 1,000 mats immediately after a joint UN assessment in district Harnai, Pishin and Khanozai areas of Balochistan for affected Pakistanis and Afghans.

The picturesque Ziarat valley, located 100 kilometres north of the provincial capital Quetta and famous for its speckled juniper forests, was the worst affected area with scores of people left homeless. UNHCR's operational partner, Catholic Relief Service (CRS), has started a shelter programme in Kawas town of Ziarat district. Six Afghan carpenters were mobilized to help their Pakistani hosts build transitional shelters for quake survivors.

"Soon after I heard about this programme, I immediately agreed to volunteer myself because I felt this was the best time I could pay gratitude to our hosts for their hospitality," Muhammad Shafiq, one of the young Afghan carpenters, said excitedly.

CRS is building 400 transitional shelters and 200 toilets in Ziarat's Kawas and Kala Cheena villages for 3,600 of those affected, including 20 Afghan families. The weather is getting severe with every passing day and after the first winter snow, these transitional huts are now valued as a great relief by the survivors.

"Nothing substitutes the comfort of home which we have lost," said Muhammad Shafie, a former government employee and current shelter beneficiary. His house was reduced to rubble on the night of the earthquake. He and his extended family now live in the CRS transitional hut, which he says is better than an ordinary tent that cannot withstand the gusty chilling winds.

Khaliqdad, an aged Afghan refugee who lost his two-room house in the tremors, agreed: "This cold is killing us. I'm eagerly waiting for my hut to be completed soon so my children could sleep peacefully at night."

The six Afghans working for the shelter project were trained at a UNHCR-funded vocational training programme in 2003 facilitated by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). They represent a minority among the mass of unskilled, cheap labour provided by Afghan refugees in the province.

"We are happy to see the circle has gone its full course, from training refugees to using their productive skills for the local communities they have lived with for over 25 years," noted John Solecki, head of the UNHCR sub-office in Quetta.

Carpenter Najibullah is determined to provide the best of his skills to his Pakistani hosts. "We are not rich enough to provide any other support," he said. "Our skills are the only help we can offer, so we offered our services for no wages."

By Duniya Aslam Khan in Kawas, Pakistan

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Shelter

One of the first things that people need after being forced to flee their homes, whether they be refugees or internally displaced, is some kind of a roof over their head.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

The port city of Aden in southern Yemen has long been a destination for refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants after making the dangerous sea crossing from the Horn of Africa. Since May 2011, Aden also has been providing shelter to tens of thousands of Yemenis fleeing fighting between government forces and armed groups in neighbouring Abyan governorate.

Most of the 157,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Abyan have found shelter with friends and relatives, but some 20,000 have been staying in dozens of public schools and eight vacant public buildings. Conditions are crowded with several families living together in a single classroom.

Many IDPs expected their displacement would not be for long. They wish to return home, but cannot do so due to the fighting. Moreover, some are fearful of reprisals if they return to areas where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in bombings.

UNHCR has provided emergency assistance, including blankets, plastic sheeting and wood stoves, to almost 70,000 IDPs from Abyan. Earlier this year, UNHCR rehabilitated two buildings, providing shelter for 2,000 people and allowing 3,000 children, IDPs and locals, to resume schooling in proper classrooms. UNHCR is advocating with the authorities for the conversion of additional public buildings into transitional shelters for the thousands of IDPs still living in schools.

Photographer Pepe Rubio Larrauri travelled to Aden in March 2012 to document the day-to-day lives of the displaced.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

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

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

A UNHCR-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is helping to keep returnee children off the streets by teaching them to read and write, give them room to play and offer vocational training in useful skills such as tailoring, flower making, and hairstyling.

Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families. For the past seven years, a UNHCR-funded project has been working to bring change.

Posted on 12 November 2008

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

Turkey: Biggest Camp OpensPlay video

Turkey: Biggest Camp Opens

The new refugee camp in Suruc, southern Turkey can provide shelter for 35,000 people, making it the largest camp in the country. Families are arriving from some of the most conflict-affected areas in Syria.
Lebanon: The Elderly And The Young In The StormPlay video

Lebanon: The Elderly And The Young In The Storm

In Lebanon, a winter storm is taking its toll on the elderly and the very young, despite continued aid distributions. There are 402,000 registered refugees in the Bekaa Valley, who live in every conceivable type of shelter, although some are more vulnerable than others.
Lebanon: Surviving the SnowPlay video

Lebanon: Surviving the Snow

Since the Syria crisis began almost four years ago, more than 1.1 million Syrians have sought shelter in Lebanon. Around 400,000 of them live in north-east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, an area that has been swept by bitterly cold storms and blanketed in storm. Aid organizations have been helping the vulnerable to survive.