Repairing homes on former frontlines in Afghanistan

With active fighting subsiding in Afghanistan since troop withdrawal and change of power dynamics in 2021, people are returning home to areas that used to be battlefields. Houses in ruins and assets lost is what often meets them. Through funds from the UN-led Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) DRC is able to work with returnees across the country, offering emergency aid and help to reconstruct homes.

49-year-old Waheed* from Maydan Wardak in Afghanistan was born during wartime and has seen more challenges than most men at his age. Now, as active fighting has reduced since late 2021 and a new reality with different and more complex challenges has emerged, it is time to return, repair and restore homes and damages that are the visible results of decades of war. Waheed, a 49-year-old son, husband, and father of nine children, is among the millions of Afghan civilians who have paid a high price of decades of relentless armed conflict.

Living in battlefields

The family lives along the arid slopes of Ghunda Khil village in Maydan Wardak, a mountainous province in the Central Region of Afghanistan. Also nearby, and to their detriment, is a military base. Years of continuous fighting and armed clashes in their area has at times moved even into their backyard.

Waheed’s family and neighbors suffered not only as human beings caught in warfare, but also through damage of property and loss of assets and livelihoods. The waves of armed conflict in Afghanistan have left a visible legacy of destroyed homes and infrastructure, but also a trail of trauma, disabilities and mental health needs of those having lived along the frontlines.

When an airstrike hit my family’s house in 2020, it was the worst experience of my life. My young son, only 22 years old, lost his right leg and will now live with this disability forever. I was hoping that we would work together, shoulder to shoulder, to feed our family. But now, our dreams can’t come true.

When fighting in the area reached life-threatening levels, Waheed and his family decided to seek refuge in the capital city, Maidan Shahr. There, they lived in a rental house, surviving on sporadic labor opportunities to earn a living. By late 2021, shortly after the Taliban took control of the country, Waheed decided that it was time for the family  to head back home.

“When we could finally return, there was no place left to live. No items to use, no money to afford even the most basic necessities. Then, only a few days later, DRC Engineers came to our house and offered support to the repairs.”

Safety and dignity

As part of a large-scale emergency response programme, DRC is  providing cash grants to support over 10,000 acutely vulnerable people in Central, South and West regions of Afghanistan – with the aim to help people getting access to safe, dignified, and appropriate shelter.

Like other Afghans pariticpating in this project, Waheed played a leading role in his own home repairs – including participating in technical trainings on housing maintenance and upgrades, working closely with DRC Engineers on the repair plan, and completing the physical construction work.

Waheed and his family is finally home, hopeful that active war and fighting is over and that they they can continue to recover and repair their home on one of the many former frontlines in Afghanistan.

DRC’s emergency aid to returnees and other people in need in Maydan Wardak is made possible through funds from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund. Similar projects are implemented in Afghanistan’s Central Region (Ghazni, Kapisa, Maidan Wardak, Parwan), the Western Region (Herat and Farah) and in the Southern Region (Kandahar).

(*Name changed)

Shelter AFG1

House after damages caused by an airstrike in 2020

Shelter AFG

House after repair of damages caused by an airstrike in 2020