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Afghanistan: Returnees rush to repair homes before winter

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: Returnees rush to repair homes before winter

29 October 2002

As nighttime temperatures drop throughout Afghanistan, more families are rushing to repair their homes using UNHCR-supplied shelter kits. In the west of the country, the number of repaired houses more than tripled in the last two weeks from 500 to more than 1,800. In central Afghanistan, 4,700 homes have been repaired during the same time. Overall to date more than 7,000 homes have been made inhabitable throughout the country, and another 10,000 are near completion. UNHCR this year plans to help in the reconstruction of about 40,000 homes. Houses are being rebuilt by Afghan families themselves with UNHCR providing building material for the most needy.

Most recipients of the shelter kits spent the summer working in their fields or looking for day-jobs. Now that the weather is colder, they have begun to work seriously on their winter accommodation. UNHCR's shelter initiative covers only a portion of Afghanistan's enormous housing needs. Other aid agencies have also been working to help rebuild destroyed homes.

Next year, UNHCR, UN HABITAT and Afghanistan's Ministry of Reconstruction and Rural Development plan to assist the rehabilitation of about 100,000 shelter units throughout Afghanistan with the support of various agencies.

While more than 1.7 million people have repatriated to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-Afghan government initiative, internal displacement remains a serious problem. In Kandahar Province which has 9,700 displaced persons living in the Zhare Dasht makeshift site that opened last August.

More than 7,000 of them were shifted from Pakistan's "waiting area" near the Chaman border crossing. However, the site still shelters some 18,700 people who have been stuck in the windswept encampment since last February when the frontier was formerly closed. Another more than 2,700 displaced people accommodated at Zhare Dasht have been shifted from the nearby town of Spin Boldak, just inside Afghanistan.

UNHCR's Kandahar office will this week begin registering Pashtun families from the North who are currently sheltering in or near Kandahar town, for a possible transfer to Zhare Dasht. The Zhare Dasht site is organized into 12 separate settlements with a total capacity of up to 60,000 people.

At the same time, efforts are underway to help Afghanistan's displaced persons to return home. A return commission was created this month, involving the local authorities in the north, Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, Afghan's Human Rights Commission, UNAMA and UNHCR, to facilitate the eventual return of IDPs to the north. UNHCR's Chief of Afghan operation Filippo Grandi and Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Mr. Enayatullah Nazari visited Maimana in Faryab Province during the weekend to assess the situation of the Pashtuns and other communities there.