Afghanistan: Return figures remaining steady
The number of refugees going back to Afghanistan has remained steady at more than 10,000 returnees a week for the past month and half, showing strong continuing momentum. So far this year, more than 420,000 Afghans have gone back from Pakistan, Iran and 14 other countries.
To help the returnees cover their transport costs, UNHCR has so far provided more than $3.5 million in travel grants. More than 6,000 metric tons of WFP [World Food Programme] wheat flour has been distributed to returning refugees, and we've handed out more than 78,000 plastic tarpaulins and other relief items.
In late August we reached an agreement with government and city authorities to rehabilitate up to 30 abandoned public buildings and help build 1,500 housing units for returnees who cannot afford to rebuild their homes. The initiative to help reduce the Afghan capital's housing shortage has received $1.4 million in funding from the European Commission (ECHO). According to surveys, some 1,400 families are squatting in 43 locations throughout Kabul because they cannot afford to pay rents, or cannot build homes on their own. Work is expected to start immediately, and we hope to repair at least 500 housing units over the next four months. UNHCR's main shelter programme targets aid to rural communities. We provided materials and funded more than 40,000 housing units for 300,000 residents of rural communities last year. So far this year we have signed agreements to provide building materials for more than 41,000 rural homes.