Afghanistan -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
A VAST, DRY AND MOUNTAINOUS LAND, Afghanistan is slowly recovering from more than a quarter century of war and civil unrest. However, fighting in parts of the country is hindering reconstruction efforts.
At least two-thirds of the Afghans live in sub-standard housing. Half a million homes were destroyed in major cities in the long years of war, according to the United Nations. The scale of destruction in rural areas is less well documented, but just as intense.
Since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, there has been an increase in demand for housing. More than 4.5 million refugees have returned from neighboring countries. Others who are displaced within Afghanistan have also returned to their own towns or cities.
The influx has pushed up the prices of land and construction materials. These pressures are particularly acute in urban areas where three-in-four Afghans live in poverty. Lack of clean water is common. Electricity is intermittently available in urban areas and non-existent in most rural areas.
Although a banking system exists, housing loans are rarely granted. Property titles are common but often contested, causing numerous land disputes.
Habitat for Humanity Afghanistan began its program in the northern province of Balkh in 2002. Habitat provided First Shelter homes to meet the demands of families in desperate need of immediate shelter. With no mortgage repayments required for First Shelter homes, costs were kept low by involving families and communities in construction.
First Shelter homes used traditional mud bricks, mud and straw plastering, wooden doors and windows. Each house measured about 36 sq. m. The buildings were designed to include two areas where people could live and work, earning a living by carpet weaving for example, with a traditional domed roof to enhance temperature control.
In November 2004, Habitat started a Save & Build housing microfinance program in Yaka-Toot village near Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province. Under this model, 10 to 12 families form a group to save for the cost of building houses. When they have saved enough for the cost of one house, Habitat and its partners contribute the costs of another two houses and construction begins. The group repeats the savings cycle until all the member families have been housed.
Save & Build was extended to the village of Ali Abad, just east of Mazar-i-Sharif in 2005. The Ali Abad savings groups each comprise an average of 17 families. Construction in Ali Abad began in July 2005 and nearly a year later, 100 houses were completed, housing up to 1,000 people.
A Save & Build house is typically about 24 sq. m. in size and comprises one room and a hallway. Repayment is about US$10 or US$20 and this increases gradually after the first year. Mortgage term is about five years.
HFH Afghanistan is currently not hosting any international volunteers. It hopes to welcome Global Village teams when the political situation stabilizes.
• Habitat completed construction of 79 new houses for Save & Build groups in Ali Abad, Turabi and Yaka-Toot villages between April and June 2006.
• In November 2005, a group of Canadian soldiers based in Afghanistan donated US$4,800 to help Afghan school teachers in Mazar-i-Sharif to accelerate home construction.
• Home partners produced 240,000 mud bricks for their homes in Yaka-Toot and Ali Abad villages in June 2005.
• Some 330 families in the northern Balkh province were provided with First Shelter homes including 135 families in Timorak village in 2003.
Population: 31.9 million (July 2007 est.)
Area: 647,500 sq km.
Ethnic groups: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, others 4%
Languages: Afghan Persian (Dari) 50%, Pashtu (official) 35%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%,
Religions: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi’ite Muslim 19%, others 1%
Updated June 2007