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UN Completes 200,000th Home for Returning Afghan Refugees

UN Completes 200,000th Home for Returning Afghan Refugees

New York, Dec 14 2010 11:10AM

The United Nations refugee agency said today it has now built 200,000 homes for returning refugees and internally displaced persons in Afghanistan as part of the shelter programme it began in 2002 and which has thus far benefited 1.4 million people.

Providing homes to returnees has been a key factor in the return of some 4.5 million refugees over the past eight years, according Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. The home construction scheme has cost $250 million.

Afghans have continued to return to their country every year from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, despite continuing insecurity in many parts of the country. The largest wave of returns was recorded between 2002 and 2005. This year, return levels exceeded 112,000 people, Mr. Edwards said.

Shelter is regularly cited by Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan as one of their primary requirements before making a decision to return. This year, UNHCR has helped more than 17,000 vulnerable returnee families with shelter. Much of the actual work of construction is carried out by beneficiaries themselves.

Returnees have made significant contribution to the country’s economy as they come back with various skills and capital accumulated in exile. The population movement has, however, also posed challenges to Afghanistan’s absorption capacity, particularly in poor rural communities with limited resources.

UNHCR’S housing programme has focused on rural areas to which significant numbers of families have returned.

Improved security and continued social and economic development will be critical to the future return and reintegration of those going back, according to the agency.

Humanitarian conditions remain fragile, and the high levels of poverty and homelessness among those returning have influenced UNHCR’s decision to continue the housing programme in 2011.

ENDS

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