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Update on UNHCR's Water Programme

Crisis in Afghanistan, 16 February 2009

UNHCR Kabul Press Information, 16 February 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan, 16 February 2009 As part of an effort to help vulnerable returning refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to have access to safe drinking water during 2008, UNHCR has completed the implementation of 375 water points and 750 latrines throughout Afghanistan.

This brings the total number of water points completed across the country since the programme began in 2002 to more than 9,365, helping an estimated 1.4 million Afghans.

UNHCR's water programme aims to help the most vulnerable people have access to safe drinking water in areas of their return.

Safe drinking water is one of the most urgent needs returning refugees and other displaced people face upon their return, in addition to issues around security, land, shelter and employment opportunities.

UNHCR increased the number of water points initially planned in its water and sanitation programme in 2008, from 375 to 393, due in part to greater demands made by returnees in drought-affected areas in the north and spontaneous settlements in the eastern provinces of Ningarhar, and delivered through the cooperation with the Community Development Councils (CDCs) established under the Government's National Solidarity Programme.

A total of 120 water points (34%) were delivered through Community Development Councils, creating a sense of ownership among user communities and expediting the implementation process. Like other parts of its operation in Afghanistan, UNHCR's water programme is focused in rural areas and in provinces where there is a high, or potentially high, rate of returning refugees or IDPs.

The regional breakdown of water points implemented in 2008 was as follows: East 113; North 103 (including two solar driven pumps); Central 67; South East 50; West 60.

In recognition of the enormous challenges of return, UNHCR will continue its reintegration activities in 2009. The agency will continue to focus on water as one of its key programmes to address the difficulties of Afghan returnees.

The number and allocation of water points for this year's programme will be determined according to the countrywide needs assessment recently completed. In addition, UNHCR plans to train district mechanics and water supply scheme caretakers during the course of the year.

Last year, UNHCR assisted more than 280,000 registered Afghans to repatriate from neighbouring Pakistan (278,000) and Iran (3,000). While many returned to their places of origin, others are unable to go back to their villages as they have no land, shelter, access to safe drinking water or job opportunities.

The improvement of economic conditions in rural areas and the provision of job opportunities are critical to the sustainability of returns to Afghanistan, and their successful reintegration. Improved security conditions, long-term development projects nationwide and a better overall socio-economic outlook for the country will be key factors to make the return of displaced people to their homes sustainable.

More than 5.6 million Afghans have returned home since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Of these, over 4.4 million have repatriated with UNHCR assistance, mostly from Pakistan and Iran.

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UNHCR country pages

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Provision of clean water and sanitation services to refugees is of special importance.

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

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

Home Without Land

Land is hot property in mountainous Afghanistan, and the lack of it is a major reason Afghans in exile do not want to return.

Although landless returnees are eligible for the Afghan government's land allocation scheme, demand far outstrips supply. By the end of 2007, the authorities were developing 14 settlements countrywide. Nearly 300,000 returnee families had applied for land, out of which 61,000 had been selected and 3,400 families had actually moved into the settlements.

Desperate returnees sometimes have to camp in open areas or squat in abandoned buildings. Others occupy disputed land where aid agencies are not allowed to build permanent structures such as wells or schools.

One resilient community planted itself in a desert area called Tangi in eastern Afghanistan. With help from the Afghan private sector and the international community, water, homes, mosques and other facilities have sprouted – proof that the right investment and commitment can turn barren land into the good earth.

Posted on 31 January 2008

Home Without Land

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Cameroon: Malnourished Children

Some 80,000 people from Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon this year, many of them after walking for weeks or months through the bush with almost no food and water. Many of the children have severe malnutrition. UNHCR and its partners are rushing to help them.
Cameroon: Refugees from Central African Republic cross river into CameroonPlay video

Cameroon: Refugees from Central African Republic cross river into Cameroon

On March 29 approximately 60 refugees from the Central African Republic made the desperate river crossing into Gbiti in eastern Cameroon. Signs of malnutrition were apparent as they waded through the water and were met by UNHCR staff.
Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.