KABUL, 6 Sep 2005 (IRIN) – Mah Gul is a 40-year-old widow living with her four children in the dusty shell of a battle-scarred building in the Bari Khot district of the Afghan capital Kabul.
“I must get somewhere for my family to live, here there is no water, no windows even, it’s worse than a tent and I have endured this for three years,” she said.
She’s one of countless impoverished women, who are forced to live in ruined houses or derelict public buildings due to a severe lack of shelter in post-war Afghanistan.
To begin to address the national problem, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs announced on Tuesday in the capital that it was planning to build accommodation for at least 1 million vulnerable Afghan women in the city. Last month an agreement was signed with a German construction company to launch the countrywide project.
Noria Banwal, the director of economic development at the women’s ministry, said the accord was signed after continual demands from women from all parts of the country for proper housing, in regular sessions where the ministry attempts to listen to the most pressing needs Afghan women have.
Lack of shelter is a huge issue in Afghanistan as millions of returned refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) slowly seek to pick up their lives, only to find their villages and streets destroyed. Many households are headed by women who suffer badly from poverty, discrimination and lack of opportunity.
House rents in the capital have rocketed in the post-Taliban era, partly fuelled by the arrival in strength of foreign NGOs, with an average family house now going for up to US $800 per month – a huge amount of money for most Kabulis.
Banwal added the scheme was the largest construction project in Afghanistan to date. Other key capital projects in the country include the Kabul to Kandahar road that has been blighted by security problems.
The government will provide land for the building work, the ministry said. The housing units – comprising three bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and toilet – are likely to cost around $600 each and subsidies will be available to enable the most vulnerable to take advantage of the programme.
The new housing will be part of new municipalities that would include schools, kindergartens, shops, a park and a health clinic designed to serve 500 families.