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UN agency to build 2,300 earthquake-resilient houses in Afghanistan

Kabul: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency announced the start of a more than USD 14 million community-based construction effort to build 2,300 earthquake-resilient houses to help residents in the southeastern Afghanistan region devastated by the deadly June 22 earthquake.
Under the plan, UNHCR is providing materials and supporting building costs for the construction of 2,000 winterized homes in both Giyan and Barmal districts of Paktika Province and 300 homes in Spera District of Khost Province. "This initiative demonstrates UNHCR's sustained solidarity and support to people affected by the disaster -- in the coming months 2,300 families will have new, resilient, winterized homes," said UNHCR Representative Leonard Zulu during an assessment mission in Barmal, Paktika Province. "UNHCR started distributing emergency shelter two days after the earthquake, and we are now aiming to meet urgent shelter needs to build back better."
Earthmoving equipment contracted by UNHCR has started site clearance in Barmal and trucks are delivering construction materials as snows are expected by mid-November.
"The Khost and Paktika areas have generously hosted thousands of refugees in recent years, some of whom were also affected by the earthquake," Zulu said. "UNHCR's shelter initiative will ensure homes for the most-affected households."
Over recent weeks, UNHCR teams have met with communities to present the project, identify the worst-affected families, and organize community groups to implement the community-based scheme.
In addition to building materials, households participating in the project will receive US$700 for labour. Engineers working with UNHCR's partners will monitor construction so relevant guidance is followed. Each family will be provided with solar panels for lighting and a bukhari space heater for burning wood during winter months, as well as materials to construct an outdoor latrine.
Bahrain's Royal Humanitarian Foundation recently signed a USD 1 million agreement with UNHCR to support the housing scheme. Additionally, UNHCR and the United Nations Development Programme have launched a joint programme to improve access to community services like health centres, schools, and water systems in the three districts.
"UNHCR has included the three districts in its Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration (PARRs) project since refugees as well as returned IDPs reside in the areas. The PARR initiative will ensure sustained support to enhance sustainable returns, reintegration and community resilience," the UN agency said in a statement.
In the wake of the 5.9 earthquakes that reportedly killed more than 1,000 people and injured many others, UNHCR distributed 3,592 family tents to provide emergency shelter for more than 25,000 people alongside household supplies and hygiene items for more than 11,200 people, complementing emergency assistance delivered by partner agencies.
Over the past four decades, Afghanistan has been battered by conflicts and natural disasters that have left millions facing famine and starvation. The latest estimates indicate that some 24 million Afghans, more than half the country's population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.
There are some 3.4 million conflict-displaced persons in Afghanistan, as well as 1.57 million climate-displaced people, making it one of the most complex humanitarian crises in the world. (ANI)

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