Thousands of displaced Afghans who lived in the capital Kabul have returned to their homes in rural Afghanistan. Each family received $200 to buy food and other essentials from UN refugee agency UNHCR.
"It's a delightful day, we're returning to our houses and our homelands," said Sardar Wali, 45, a farmer from Laghman province who fled to Kabul months before the Taliban regained power last August.
Almost a year after the war that forced them to flee ended, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR this week facilitated the return of thousands of displaced Afghans to their homes in the country's eastern provinces.
"Even if our house was hit by mortars and has been damaged we will build it again," Wali told the AFP news agency.
Millions migrated inside Afghanistan over two decades of bitter fighting between the US-led military coalition and the militant Islamic Taliban, which ended as the Taliban returned to power last August.
Many flocked to major cities like Kabul where air strikes, bombings and firefights were less common than in rural parts, which have historically been the hardline Islamists' power base in the country of 39 million.
According to AFP, more than 30 buses were chartered to transport around 1,600 men, women and children back to their homes on Thursday (July 28) alone. Each family received $200 to buy food and other essentials, UNHCR said.
Many IDPs (internally displaced persons), who fled to Kabul, lived in makeshift tents or had to sleep rough, AFP reported, while others moved into rented homes -- only to realize they could not afford it.
"It was just two to three months back that we rented a house," said Pari Gul, who also opted to return with the UNHCR scheme.
"Our children are collecting plastics and my husband is old. We can't afford the cost of living here," he added.
Afghanistan's economy has fallen apart, with tens of thousands of people losing their jobs after the international community stopped delivering aid to the country following the US withdrawal. An estimated 3.5 million people are still internally displaced, according to UNHCR, with almost 80% of them women and children.
Outside of Afghanistan, according to UNHCR, 2.6 million Afghans live as recognized refugees -- 2.2 million of whom are registered in Iran and Pakistan alone. This makes Afghans one of the largest refugee populations worldwide.
"Everyone loves to live in their own village," said Huma, 36, as she waited in a queue to take her cash allowance. "We are leaving thinking that at least we will be headed home."