UNHCR distributes winter supplies as first snow falls in Kabul

News Stories, 29 December 2008

© and Courtesy of UNAMA/J.Jalali
An Afghan returnee receives UNHCR winter supplies in Kabul.

KABUL, Afghanistan, December 29 (UNHCR) As temperatures drop across Afghanistan, UNHCR and its partners have started delivering winter supplies to the most desperate Afghan returnees and internally displaced families to help them get through the cold season.

This winter, the UN refugee agency plans to assist a total of 31,897 Afghan families numbering some 200,000 individuals as part of a coordinated response to the harsh weather that also involves the Afghan authorities and other aid agencies. The non-food aid is targeted at recent returnees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and others at risk in the cold weather.

"We hope that inter-agency winterization assistance can be reoriented from emergency response to emergency prevention for vulnerable communities," said Maya Ameratunga, UNHCR's Acting Deputy Representative in Afghanistan.

In total, over 147,000 blankets, more than 80,000 plastic sheets, 32,000 jerry cans, 46,000 items of warm clothing including 18,000 pairs of shoes and 30,000 pairs of socks have been purchased and sent to UNHCR's regional offices for countrywide distribution.

The latest beneficiaries include 150 vulnerable families who are squatting in abandoned buildings in Kabul city. On Monday, as the first snow fell in the Afghan capital, they were given blankets, jackets, sweaters, shawls, rubber shoes and boots, socks and jerry cans.

"Given the harsh winter we are experiencing now, items such as blankets and warm clothes for our children will at least meet our partial needs," said Sayed Anwar, who returned from Pakistan a few years ago. He added that his needs were great and requested more food and heating assistance to help them get through the cold months ahead.

Kabul is part of the Central region, where UNHCR plans to assist 4,450 families. Distribution has already been completed in the provinces of Parwan, Kapisa and Panjshir, and is ongoing in Kabul, Logar, Wardak and Ghazni.

This year, many more families are receiving winterization assistance as a result of UNHCR's awareness raising and advocacy among agencies and private sectors. The agency is urging donors to direct their assistance to such outlying communities as IDPs in Ghazni and new returnees in Logar and Wardak, some of whom are still landless and homeless.

The refugee agency's own assistance is focused on less-visible and less-accessible rural areas, where conditions are worse for returnees and IDPs in isolated communities. Given the large number of returns to the cities, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have also agreed to fill in the heating gaps for winter assistance in urban centres.

In the Eastern region where the majority (61%) of this year's returnees have gone, around 11,000 returnee families will receive winterization assistance. The priority is given to Afghan returnees who are currently living in five spontaneous settlements in Nangarhar and Laghman. Distribution started last week and so far more than 5,000 families have benefited.

In the Western region, the overall plan is to help some 7,000 families including some 800 families in Nimroz and a total of 6,200 families in the provinces of Herat, Badghis, Ghor and Farah. UNHCR has already pre-positioned non-food items for 1,000 families each in Badghis and Ghor where access remains difficult due to heavy snow.

In the South, distribution to a total of 5,000 families will be finalised by the end of January. In addition, 3,000 mainly returnee families living in Paktya and Khost will receive winterization packages of non-food items as well as warm clothes.

In the Central Highlands, one of the regions most affected by winter, UNHCR will be delivering relief items to over 500 families both in Bamiyan and through the Department of Refugees and Repatriation (DoRR) in Daikundi province for further distribution.

In the North and North-Eastern region, UNHCR has started providing standard assistance package of blankets and plastic sheets to over 4,600 beneficiaries. Distribution has been completed in Balkh, Faryab, Samangan, Jawzjan, Sar-i-Pul and Baghlan provinces. Similar distributions are underway in Kunduz and Takhar.

By Mohammed Nadir Farhad in Kabul, Afghanistan




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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.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Afghanistan: The Reality of Return

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After more than two decades of war, Afghanistan faces enormous recovery needs. The rugged, landlocked nation remains one of the poorest in the world, with more than half its 25 million citizens living below the poverty line. Furthermore, the rise in global food prices has affected more than 2.5 million Afghans, who can no longer afford to buy staples such as wheat flour.

Since 2002, more than 5 million Afghans have gone back home, with a large proportion returning to the eastern provinces. The returnees face huge challenges, such as insecurity, food shortages, insufficient shelter, unemployment and a lack of access to basic services.

UNHCR and WFP are working in partnership to help returnees in Afghanistan to rebuild their lives, particularly in the east. Programmes such as skills training, micro hydroelectricity projects and food distribution have helped Afghans get back on their feet and work towards creating sustainable livelihoods.

Posted on 18 September 2008

Afghanistan: The Reality of Return

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

For over a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has been devastated by conflict and civil strife, with some 8 million people uprooted internally and in neighbouring countries. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 resulted in one of the largest and most successful return operations in history.

Seven years on, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned - increasing Afghanistan's population by an estimated 20 percent.The large majority have gone back to their areas of origin. However, some recent returnees are facing more difficulties as the country's absorption capacity reaches its limits in some areas. Last year, some Afghans returned before they were ready or able to successfully reintegrate due to the closure of refugee villages as well as the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan. In consequence, 30,000 Afghan refugees returned to further displacement in their homeland, unable to return to their villages due to conflict, lack of land, shelter materials, basic services and job opportunities. These challenges have been compounded elsewhere across the country by food insecurity and severe drought.

UNHCR and the Afghan Foreign Ministry highlighted the requirements for sustainable refugee return and reintegration at an international conference in Kabul in November 2008. The donor community welcomed the inclusion of refugee reintegration within the government's five-year national development strategy and the emphasis on land, shelter, water, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods. It is anticipated that repatriation and reintegration will become more challenging in future.

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

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