-A Long Battle and The Largest Number of Refugees in History
The fighting that began in 1979 with the invasion of the former Soviet Union has intensified over the years, forcing many Afghans to flee their home. As a result, they sought refuge in neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran. Internal ensued after the withdrawal of the Soviet Army in 1989. In 1990, the number of refugees to 6,200,000--a little less than half of the world's refugee population. Although Afghan refugees began to return after the cease fire in 1992 , in 1993, armed conflict erupted again. Ever since, refugees have continued to flow out of the country and return, only to be forced to flee again.
- The Difficult Reality of Returnees' Lives
The land has been abused by the 20 years of battle and the record-breaking droughts of recent years. The large numbers of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been forced to forge a life of refuge in such difficult environments. However, Afghan refugees started returning home after the provisional government was established in December 2001. Between 2002 and 2004, the number of returnees assisted by UNHCR reached an estimated 3,060,000 people. Nevertheless, returnees have had a difficult time rebuilding their lives, since their homeland has been utterly devastated, and there are no means to generate an income. There is an increasing number of people who have become refugees again in neighboring countries, while others are living as IDPs in cities such as Kabul. It is urgent that living conditions, such as housing, infrastructure, education, and employment opportunities are repaired in order to promote sustainable repatriation and resettlement in Afghanistan.
2) Our activities in Afghanistan
(1) JEN's Assistance Program Policy
Repatriation and Resettlement Assistance Program with Local Participation
JEN staff flew to Afghanistan to implement 'Emergency Assistance for Drought Victims' in August 2001. However, due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent retaliation by the US Army, JEN redirected its assistance program to the emergency assistance of people who became refugees and IDPs due to the conflict and drought. When the provisional government was established at the end of 2001, numerous refugees returned home.In response, since 2002, JEN has been implementing the 'Repatriation and Resettlement Assistance Program' in Parwan Province to support the self-reliance of returnees.
We teamed with local people and communities, aiming to enhance their self-reliance through our projects. In the reconstruction of homes and bridges/roads, Afghan returnees cooperate with each other to undertake the reconstruction labor. In the School Reconstruction Project, JEN encouraged returnees to organize School Management Committees so that local people themselves make the decisions regarding reconstruction, as well as the maintenance and supervision of the school. JEN continues to assist the socially vulnerable, such as children, women, seniors, and people with disabilities.
(2) Current Project
Water Pipe Project
One of the biggest problems Afghanistan faces is the shortage of safe drinking water, which is indispensable for their lives. According to the report of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Development, 15 million farmers out of 19 million farmers do not have access to safe drinking water. In addition, infant mortality rate under the age of five in Afghanistan is 25%, which is much higher than that of the neighbouring countries, which is about 10%. About half of such deaths are due to unsafe drinking water. In Parwan Province, located in the north of Kabul, chronic diseases caused by unsafe water has been a serious problem at many regions including the provincial capital of Charikar by deterioration of quality of water and the shortage of water caused by recent increase of population.
Given this situation, JEN is working to supply safe drinking water in Parwan Province, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and cooperating with Parwan government and other international organizations. In three priority regions in Parwan and at the provincial capital of Charikar, JEN is building and repairing water supply system in order to improve the sanitation. JEN is building and repairing pipelines for supplying safe drinking water, cleaning and repairing underground canals, and holding workshops to teach basic knowledge of sanitation.
School Rehabilitation/Construction Projects
A large number of schools were destroyed by the long years of armed conflict. In addition to the devastation, the increase in the number of students due to refugee returns has created a shortage in the number of schools needed. Consequently, children are forced to attend classes outside in tents, under trees, and in unsafe buildings.
Since 2002, JEN has been conducting the School Rehabilitation Project in order to improve the educational environment. In 2005, JEN also built schools in areas where classes are being conducted without any building structure. In the School Rehabilitation and Construction Projects, JEN helped establish School Management Committees consisting of local authorities, residents, and teachers. The School Management Committees discuss priority issues in rehabilitation and construction, solve problems during construction work, and talk over the management and supervision of the school after the end of the project. Through these committees, JEN aims to strengthen people's sense of ownership, and enhance their awareness of the value of education. In addition, as local people themselves implement the rehabilitation and reconstruction, this program promotes employment opportunities for returnees who have limited means of income.
Literacy Education Project
In Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, many refugees have still returned, and the number is believed to be half of returnees in whole Afghanistan.
Particularly, a place called Carte Sakhi in Kabul's number 3 area was the shooting battle field from the hilly area during the past civil war. Most of citizens who lived in the hilly area had to evacuate, therefore, majority of citizens were returnees and were deprived the opportunity of education from them during evacuation.
And also, numerous families have no stable occupation, so they work daily job and create an artwork for living. However, they are still under severe life circumstance due to low income.
This is why JEN started the literacy education project in this area from Jan 2006. Presently, 162 students (6 classes) have been learning the literacy and basic calculation ability.
In order to acquire such ability, students will be able to have an opportunity to improve their income, moreover, the project aims to contribute the upskilling women whose several chances are socially limited for acquiring the opportunity of education.
3) Previous projects
Well-Digging Project (2005/6 - 2006/6)
Although there are small wells and canals in the villages of Charikar in Parwan Province, shortage of water is a serious problem due to the many years of drought. Presently, the quality of water is poor, causing adverse effects on the health and living conditions of local people, who often die of diarrhea. Since 2005, JEN has been initiating the Well-Digging Project in the farmlands of Charikar in order to improve living conditions by providing access to clean water.
In this project, a committee for well supervision and maintenance, consisting of JEN, the local government, and local people, was established. The committee agrees upon necessary items needed for project implementation, such as the locations for well-digging and solutions when the water pumps malfunction. The committee also discusses the maintenance and supervision of the wells once the project begins, in particular how to subsidize the fees for repair. Through this activity, it is possible to establish a management system for the wells when the project is completed. The project aims to raise local people's awareness of the value of participating in social activities that lead to a healthy living environment.
Housing Reconstruction Project (2002/6 - 2006/6)
Due to devastation and inhabitable living conditions, many returnees have lost their homes and are living with relatives. Some of them are trying to restart their lives in difficult conditions, renting from relatives a space as small as 8 square meters for a family of 10. Since 2002, in the area of Charikar in Parwan Province, JEN has been assisting Afghan returnees such as women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, who have difficulties reconstructing their homes by themselves.
Target populations for our projects are selected in cooperation with a committee comprised of local residents and the local government. JEN provides a portion of the building materials and technical advice for construction. JEN encourages returnees to maximize their potential in order to enhance their self-reliance. For example, they procure on their own the material that they can get themselves, such as sundried bricks, and they conduct the actual reconstruction as well. In addition, in 2002, JEN trained engineers and manufactured building materials, and offered trainings in wood processing in collaboration with local NGOs.
Bridge and Road Construction Project (2004/4 - 2005/5)
JEN constructed a road 17km long, and two bridges in Ashaba, Parwan Province. Local people themselves worked on the construction, and received food from WFP as compensation. The roads and bridges of 26 villages in mountainous regions, where aid had been difficult to reach, were constructed. As a result, villagers were able to move and transport goods more easily, and children's commute to school was improved.
Self-Reliance of Women Project (2003/8 - 2004/2)
I In an area in Kabul where many Hazara (an ethnic minority) people live, JEN conducted trainings for traditional carpet weaving and literacy classes, in collaboration with local NGOs. This was a project for socially vulnerable women: returnee, widowed, elderly, and disabled women. We also organized management trainings in order to train women leaders who are able to implement and continue future activities.
"Afghan-Kids" Educational Support Project for Afghan Children (2002/4 - 2003/5)
Three NGOs collaborated to organize donations for Education Assistance in Afghanistan. These donations made it possible for JEN to renovate schools in Charikar, Parwan Province. Many people from local schools and communities actively participated in the renovation, and they continue to supervise and manage the schools.
Naharin Earthquake Disaster Assistance Project (2002/3 - 2004/6)
JEN distributed 3,000 blankets for victims of the earthquake that occurred in Bagran Province in March 2002. In order to assist earthquake victims to have access to safe water, we also carried out well digging in the new locations where victims had to resettle.
Daily Necessity Distribution Project (2002/3 - 2002/7)
In Kabul, JEN made and distributed packages of essential goods for returnees who had returned without any of their possessions. In order to distribute as many items to as many people in need, JEN prepared two kinds of packages for families with women or elderly heads of household: one with daily necessities and another with kitchen utensils.
Stationery Distribution Project (2002/1-2005/5 etc.)
In January 2002 we distributed pencils and notebooks to 2,300 students (1,700 girls) at schools in East Kabul. Through this activity, we supported female students who have not had educational opportunities for the past 5 years. In May 2005, we also distributed stationery--notebooks and color pencils--donated from Japan to 4 kindergartens in Parwan Province.
Emergency Winter Assistance (2001/12 - 2002/3, 2002/12 - 2003/1)
In the winter of 2001, JEN assisted IDPs who were trying to survive a harsh winter. We distributed blankets, kitchen utensils, buckets, and heaters. In the following winter in 2002, we also sent 2,000 packages of jackets and socks for children, and 918 sets of daily necessities such as cooking utensils.
4) Project in Pakistan
JEN opened two offices in Peshawar and Islamabad in October 2001 to execute emergency winter assistance in Afghan refugee camps along the border of the North West Frontier Province. In April 2003, given that the majority of refugees began to return home, JEN ended the project and withdrew from Pakistan.
Blanket Distribution (2002/1?2002/6, 2002/12?2003/3?
JEN distributed 20,000 blankets, which were provided by the Association of Japanese Agencies for Supporting Africa (AJASA), to Afghan refugees who were living in harsh environments. The blankets were used in a variety of ways, such as jackets, rugs, and bags for carrying items. It was useful, not only in refugee camps, but also upon return to their homelands.
Distribution of Emergency Winter Supplies Projects ?2001/12?2002/3?
We distributed necessary supplies for refugees in the camps so that they could live through the severe winter. 12,000 winter jackets were provided from Fast Retailing Co.; blankets, mats, winter jackets, and daily necessities such as plates, buckets, and heaters were also distributed.