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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.

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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.

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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

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