Afghans endure housing problems

Mohammad Saud waiting for his cash grant Mohammad Saud waiting for his cash grant UNHCR/Farzana Wahidy

03 July 2020

Displaced Afghans are forced to build their makeshift shelters after they’ve failed to pay for their rent dues

Mohammad Daud had lived in countless temporary housings. He had moved from one place to another with his wife, four children, and four grandchildren. He was settled, but worried that he would be forced to leave his shelter soon. His family was not the only target of threats of eviction.

Forced eviction has become a norm in Afghanistan and more so during the pandemic. Job loss means that families cannot earn and afford to pay their dues and rent fees. Cramming families in a quaint rental accommodation without running water and toilets have been a common scenario. It’s no wonder that displaced Afghans consider the need for shelter as one of their top priorities.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has looked at the issue and jump-started its “Cash for Shelter” project. It provides a cash grant of $3,300 to families and construction assistance for a two-bedroom home with a functioning bathroom. The refugee agency lends a helping hand to the families who can now hire local construction workers to amp up the manpower and build their homes within three months. Families are able to put up a fitting home with ample space to cater their needs.

Mohammad’s family moved into their new house albeit the unfinished construction. The walls were still wet and the rooms were windowless, but the fleeting sensation of comfort and space won them over. At least in their new home, there’s space for everyone. But when the pandemic struck, it racked up their financial problems. The food prices have increased and it’s difficult to pay for their meals without borrowing money.

UNHCR met up last July 6 to discuss the response to the critical humanitarian issues that affect Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan including shelter, education, health, livelihoods, and refugees’ return and reintegration in their respective communities. The UN refugee agency seeks to provide for the affected residents as soon as possible.

Mohammad is grateful for the new abode he’s in. He has crossed out a problem from his list of concerns, but is still worried that it will pile up soon. “For shelter, we are comfortable now,” he says in a report of UNHCR. “It is now that we are living in poverty.”


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Author: Matthew Burgos

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