Poor families currently living in caves in Afghanistan are to receive permanent shelter, in a new Islamic Relief project now underway.

Bamyan province, in central Afghanistan, is the poorest in the country. Home to many displaced people as well as families that have returned to the country, Bamyan suffers from insecurity and ethnic tensions. Local conflict has driven around 200 of the most vulnerable families to seek refuge in caves around Bamyan city, which are part of a UNESCO world heritage site.

Life in the caves

Originally inhabited by Buddist monks choosing a life of poverty and aestheticism, the caves are damp and extremely cold in winter.

Without sanitation and water facilities, the difficult living conditions inside the caves present serious health risks to the families that now shelter there.

The families are extremely poor, with many headed by women or disabled people – who face particular challenges to earning a living in Afghanistan. Few children are able to attend school, and malnutrition is common.

Hope and homes

In the project’s first phase, Islamic Relief is building 20-30 shelters on land allocated by the government for this purpose. These permanent two-roomed homes will be fitted with sanitation facilities, as well as a solar panel to allow the families to generate energy. The families will own the land upon which their homes stand, and wells will also be installed for each house.

Householders who are able to work will help to build their home. They will also be paid to help construct the earthquake-resistant shelters for families who cannot contribute labour.

Subject to funding, Islamic Relief hopes to have constructed 200 shelters upon completion of the project, allowing vulnerable families to move out of the caves. We also aim to provide households with the support they need to earn a decent living.

Islamic Relief has been working in Afghanistan since 1992. Other programmes in Bamyan provide a regular allowance for the basic needs of orphaned children, and distributing Qurbani meat and Ramadan food parcels.