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Does Shelter Assistance Reduce Poverty in Afghanistan?
Forced migration, often resulting from violent conflict, imposes large economic costs on both sending and receiving countries, on those agencies that coordinate humanitarian services and most importantly upon the forced migrants themselves. Programs encouraging the return of refugees are therefore potentially crucial interventions, which can result in all parties benefiting. In this paper, we assess the UNHCR post-return shelter assistance program in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2011, the country most affected by refugee movements, where no less than one-third of the population is a returnee. We are motivated by the fact that the resolution of lost housing and property is commonly understood as a key ingredient in sustainable return and reintegration. Given the infeasibility of randomizing shelter assistance to those repatriated, we implement a variety of matching techniques to insulate our results from selection biases. Adopting a multidimensional approach, our results show that shelter assistance reduces multidimensional poverty by around six percent. This reduction in poverty is driven by particular indicators of deprivation including dietary diversity, food security and heating, all of which are shown to fall by five to six percent depending on the matching specification. The former results are particularly encouraging in the context of Afghanistan given the prevalence of chronic malnutrition in the country.