'Dislocation', shelter, and crisis: Afghanistan's refugees and notions of home

  • Emmott S
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Millions of people have become refugees or been displaced within Afghanistan during 17 years of war within the country. Conversations with women in a camp for the displaced reveal what it means for women to lose their homes, especially in the context of ongoing instability and conflict. Sections discuss homelessness in Kabul, linking psycho-social and practical needs, coping with dislocation, stability and land ownership, mobility and security, family breakdown, temporary and permanent settlements, and meeting needs versus creating dependency. The author concludes that among people displaced from their homes for so many years, their physical and spiritual homes nonetheless remain inseparable from their lives. It is important to maintain the individual notion of home if life is to be worth living and hope retained. Relief agencies must help in an appropriate manner and to an appropriate extent. Oxfam has been working beyond the refugee camps, in a return to the city of Kabul, since July 1995. When this article was written, the NGO was involved in a joint venture to restore the piped water supply which, like the electricity supply, was looted and damaged. It also plans to distribute plastic sheeting for use as roofs and floor covering during the winter. Oxfam currently plans discreet activities rather than an integrated approach.

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  • Sue Emmott

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