• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Update on UNHCR's Shelter Programme

Crisis in Afghanistan, 2 February 2009

UNHCR Kabul Press Information, 2 February 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan, 2 February 2009 Despite the difficult security conditions prevailing in parts of Afghanistan, UNHCR has completed nearly 100 per cent its shelter programme for the vulnerable returning refugees and internally displaced persons just as the winter weather across the country sets in.

More than 10,000 families- numbering some 60,000 individuals- mainly returnees in the rural provinces of Afghanistan, where a high proportion of returnees have settled down, benefited from the agency's shelter programme.

Launched in 2002, UNHCR's shelter programme is designed to help the most vulnerable households especially widows, the disabled, or elderly. The shelter beneficiaries are a mix of recent returnees (2008) as well as IDPs.

Last year, UNHCR assisted more than 280,000 registered Afghans to repatriate from neighbouring Pakistan (278,000) and Iran (3,000). Many of them have returned to their places of origin, but some are unable to go back to their villages as they have no land, shelter or job opportunities.

The UNHCR shelter assistance is a community based programme. Eligible families are provided with shelter packages which include essential construction materials such as tools, wooden beams, a door, two window frames and nails to build a two-room house. Each of the 10,000 shelters has cost around 1500 dollars.

The regional breakdown of the shelter allocation in 2008 was as follow: East: 4,200, North: 2,100, Central: 2,100, Southeast: 1,000, West: 500, Central Highland: 100.

Overall, across the country since 2002, more than 180,000 families- around 1.2 million people- who otherwise would have not been able to live in their own homes, have been assisted to rebuild their lives after years of conflict. This is one of the largest UNHCR's programmes in Afghanistan.

UNHCR activities inside Afghanistan including the shelter and reintegration projects will continue in 2009. The shelter programme which has resulted in tangible changes in the lives of poor returnees, will see a further 10,000 shelters constructed in 2009.

UNHCR has allocated some 14 million dollars for its shelter programme in 2009 that will support 10,000 families in building their own shelters. This is expected to benefit approximately 60,000 individuals in provinces where returns remain high and where eligible returnees meet the criteria.

In spite of UNHCR's reintegration efforts such as shelter, water, returnee monitoring, coexistence and income generating projects to help make the return of Afghans sustainable, there are still gaps and there are many settlements sites where recent returnees from Pakistan are living on desolate, desert land and makeshift shelters.

The sustainability of returns and their successful reintegration in Afghanistan has a direct link to the improving economics in rural areas and provision of employment opportunities. Improved security conditions as well as better socio-economic conditions are key influential factors for sustainable return which needs long-term development projects nationwide.

More than 5.6 million Afghans have returned home since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Among them, over 4.3.5 million have repatriated with UNHCR assistance, mostly from Pakistan, Iran and other countries.




UNHCR country pages


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

Lebanon: Syrian Refugees Weather First Winter Storm
Play video

Lebanon: Syrian Refugees Weather First Winter Storm

A first winter storm of 2016 brought snow and bitter cold conditions to thousands of Syrian refugees already living in hardship in Lebanon. Heaters, fuel and shelter reinforcements provided by the UN Refugee Agency helped ease the worst of another harsh winter in exile.
South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
Croatia: Sunday Train ArrivalsPlay video

Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.