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Afghanistan: ES/NFI Assessment - An In-Depth Analysis of Emergency Shelter, Non-Food Item and Winterization Needs (December 2019)

Country: Afghanistan Sources: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, REACH Initiative, Shelter Cluster SUMMARY Context After 40 years of continued humanitarian crisis, Afghanistan remains one of the world s most complex humanitarian emergencies, driven by escalating conflict and devastating natural disasters. Displacement undermines individuals self-protection capacity, triggering unwanted coping mechanisms that put them at risk. According to the 2019 HNO, more than 39% of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and returnees reportedly live in makeshift shelters, and 32% noted the need for adequate shelter as their greatest priority.1 In 2019, the return of rains after the 2018 drought caused an increase in the number of people affected by flooding. An estimated 280,000 people were impacted by unseasonal flooding across the country, affecting households in areas not accustom to the shock nor recovery from these events.2 The HNO estimates that an additional 200,000 people will need humanitarian assistance due to sudden-onset disasters in 2020, including landslides and flash floods.3 The 2019 Whole of Afghanistan Assessment (WoAA)4 provided a national and regional overview of critical shelter and NFI needs across multiple crisis-affected population groups. However, it has only a limited capacity to provide more nuanced and localized information to guide programmatic responses in the Emergency Shelter and Non-Food Item (ES/NFI) cluster, and does not describe the unique differences in shelter needs between Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), host communities, and non-displaced disaster affected populations. Given the growing need for immediate and appropriate shelter aid, there exists a gap of detailed ES/NFI data to inform sector programming and identify specific needs which require urgent intervention. In particular, an evidence base was needed to understand the key challenges and coping strategies related to ES/NFI; how these needs, challenges and coping strategies are distributed and inter-related across different population and preferences in modalities of aid provision related to the ES/NFI response. Combined, this data could contribute towards the development of a comprehensive and evidence-based strategy for the ES/NFI Cluster in Afghanistan. Assessment REACH, in partnership with the Shelter cluster and funded by UNHCR, conducted this assessment in order to address these information gaps. The assessment used a mixed mFethods aproach to collect ES/NFI-specific data and complete an in-depth analysis of needs in four priority provinces of Badakhshan, Herat, Jawzjan and Kandahar for key population groups as identified by the findings of the WoAA. Acknowledging that different population groups have different shelter needs, the project considered three key groups: IDPs, non-displaced disaster affected (NDDA) households and host communities. A statistically representative household survey was conducted with 5,475 households, which provided results with a confidence level of 95% and margin of error of 5% at the province and targeted population group level. To triangulate and explain households survey findings, 20 focus group discussions (FGDs) were also conducted, one per gender for each population group in each targeted province. Data collection occurred between December 11 29, 2019. Key Findings Displacement and livelihoods Socioeconomic status, livelihoods opportunities, displacement, and exposure to shocks all impacted households differently, and appeared to have the largest overall impact in determining the shelter needs and conditions for each population group. Host community and NDDA populations reported many similar livelihoods conditions and challenges, and were distinguished mainly by their socioeconomic status. Low income NDDA households tended to lack the resources to resist or recover from the effects of natural disasters. Low income host community households noted similar condition, but had not yet been faced with a major shock. Most households (93%) reported the majority of household earnings as income from work in the 30 days prior to data collection. The majority of that work reported was low paying and unstable work like unskilled daily labour (64%). Provinces where more of the population was reported to have skilled employment also reported fewer overall concerns with shelter and livelihoods. Natural disaster was found to be the most recent factor driving displacement for a majority of households in the assessed areas. In FGDs, most IDPs that reported being displaced by conflict had left their areas of origin years prior, and were more recently affected by natural disasters (usually flooding or earthquakes) in their areas of displacement.
Shelter typologies IDP households shelter needs appeared to be influenced by the amount of time that they had been displaced. Regardless of materials, the temporary and transitional shelters provided as emergency aid are generally past their intended use and are deteriorating. The majority of Host community and NDDA households live in permanent shelters (86% and 76% respectively), largely made of mud or brick. The quality of these permanent shelters varied depending on the household s socioeconomic status before the shock. The main reported cause of shelter damage was natural disasters (78%). Nearly all NDDA households experienced shelter damage in the last year, with all but 8% of shelters reported to have sustained at least minor damage. The majority of households with damaged shelter reported being unable to make the repairs that they wanted (79%), largely because households could not afford materials (64% of those households who were unable to make repairs). While vulnerable households5 were about 10% less likely to live in a permanent structure and 10% more likely to live in a transitional shelter than the overall population, the reported needs of vulnerable households and the overall population were similar. This indicates that non-vulnerable groups also suffer from similar shelter and winterization gaps. Living arrangements Lower income households and IDPs were pushed into unsecure or illegal agreements which put them at risk of exploitation or eviction. Half of IDP households reported having an insecure tenure agreement, while one in ten NDDA or Host community reported the same. The majority of non-displaced households (71%) reported hosting displaced persons in their shelter. A minority of NDDA households (16%) reported hosting displaced persons. NDDA households are already vulnerable and hosting IDPs in their household can add an additional pressure. Security and dignity Rent is at the forefront of security and dignity in shelter over half of IDPs, and 60% of households overall, reported being unable to afford rent in the three months prior to data collection. IDP households highlighted that the rising costs of repairing a shelter while also paying rent were not possible to sustain. As a result, over one third of IDP households reported fearing eviction in the next three months due to an inability to pay rent. Households with poorer quality shelter types or materials were more likely to feel unsafe in their shelters.
Over half of IDP households and one in four households overall reported feeling unsafe, most commonly due to natural disasters in general, or poor shelter materials failing during natural disasters. Challenges and coping mechanisms Households cannot afford to purchase items in local markets, which are open, stocked with shelter material and NFIs which are reasonably priced. When faced with limited finances and shelter needs, households reported coping by cutting other household expenses, in particular food and healthcare. A minority of households reported taking steps to prepare for winter (16%). Most preparations involved stockpiling firewood (or any fuel, such as plastics or dung) and borrowing from friends and relatives. Few households reported receiving humanitarian aid in the three months prior to data collection, and those that did receive aid did not receive enough. Aid diversion was an occasional complaint from households across population groups, in which individual leaders were believed to be siphoning aid to enrich themselves or specific beneficiaries.
Priority needs and preferred aid Food, shelter repair and winterization were consistently reported as the priority needs of households. Food was the first priority need of every population group (72%), largely related to the lack of resources households have to cope with shocks, leading households to sacrifice food expenses first when rent was due or shelter repair needed. In addition, the 2020 HNO reports that the same disasters that damaged shelters also damaged large areas of farm land.6 The requests for food aid may also be a reflection of the loss of crops and other food sources. Shelter aid, specifically shelter repair, is both a long- and short-term transitional shelters are needed as a durable, safe solution to immediate needs, but most households want quality shelter materials and (re)construction of a permanent structure as sustainable protection from shocks. Winterization and NFIs are immediate needs. These priority needs do overlap, as households specified fuel, blankets and warm clothing specifically as priority ES/NFI needs. Cash is the preferred form of aid for a majority of households. Households reported that, if given cash as aid, they would spend it first on food, fuel and shelter repair. These priorities align with standard priorities for winter, the season in which this assessment was conducted. Conclusions This assessment implies several onward strategies for shelter programming in Afghanistan. First, cash-based programming was a preferred and appreciated form of support, more so than in-kind distributions. Markets are present in most communities and supply chains are robust, but most households, regardless of displacement status or vulnerability, are unable to afford the goods that they need. Also, as IDPs tend to remain in transitional and emergency shelters for longer than intended, adjusting programming to providing transitional shelters, with durable and high quality materials, will support households in having safer shelter for the medium-term. In addition, expanding emergency shelter programming to include follow up distributions, or cash or in-kind materials, would prevent situations of households stretching initial aid well past its lifespan. These provisions will also support in preparation for winter a key ES/NFI need. Winterization distributions which occur well before the temperature drops are a consistent and urgent need. Households seem to rely on the support of UN/NGOs to prepare for harsh winters, in particular with heating of shelters fuel and blankets.There is a desire throughout the population groups to go beyond shelter repairs to construct new shelters with high quality and durable materials. Providing shelter with strong materials and proper construction techniques from the foundation up will keep households safer in the next natural disaster, prevent future repair costs, and ultimately improve household resilience in the shocks to come. Households are eager for long-term solutions so shelter maintenance is no longer a burden.


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