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UNHCR prepares for winter in Afghanistan despite security constraints

UNHCR prepares for winter in Afghanistan despite security constraints

The UN refugee agency is distributing winter items to Afghan returnees and displaced people with the onset of cold weather. It is also working with partner agencies to rehabilitate buildings and construct shelters and water facilities for returning communities.
11 December 2003
An Afghan returnee working with his grandson on beams for their new home in Shaidan, Bamyan.

KABUL, Dec 11 (UNHCR) - Despite security constraints in parts of Afghanistan, the UN refugee agency is continuing its efforts to prepare Afghan returnees and internally displaced people for the coming winter.

In Kabul, UNHCR and the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) have completed the distribution of winter items to some 1,000 displaced families squatting in nine public buildings and four tent sites. The displaced Afghans received blankets, plastic sheeting, cookers, heaters and charcoal to brace them for the cold weather.

Médecins Sans Frontières is providing winter items for another 800 displaced families in four locations in the capital.

To improve living conditions for the displaced Afghans, UNHCR's partner, THW (Technisches Hilfswerk, or Technical Relief Service), is fixing the windows, doors, partitions, latrines and bathrooms in nine public buildings. The refugee agency hopes to rehabilitate more public buildings to house an estimated 400 families now squatting in tent sites, and is awaiting the Afghan government's approval on this.

UNHCR has also started delivering emergency supplies elsewhere in Afghanistan, and is standing by with items for more than 47,000 returnees or displaced Afghans who may need them this season.

Housing projects are also underway, with 34,000 homes built so far for some 272,000 Afghan returnees. Another 16,000 shelters are near completion.

In addition, more than 2,300 wells and water points have been completed, with another 700 under construction to provide drinking water for Afghans returning to their communities.

Since 2002, UNHCR has helped some 600,000 returnees rebuild their homes by providing roof timbers, doors and window frames. It has also helped construct more than 6,000 wells and water points.

"Despite the withdrawal of international staff from the southern and eastern border regions following the murder of our colleague last month, our reintegration and life-sustaining programmes are continuing with minimum disruption thanks to the ministries, implementing partners and our Afghan colleagues," said UNHCR spokeswoman Maki Shinohara in Kabul Thursday.

The refugee agency recently sent teams to Kandahar and Jalalabad to assess the security situation in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

"We are taking different measures to keep our programmes going, but full re-deployment of staff and full resumption of all operations, which require unimpeded field access, are not foreseen in the near future unless measures are taken to improve security along the border," noted Shinohara.