A scheme to rebuild homes for thousands of returning refugees in Afghanistan has been stepped up in a bid to beat the country’s usually bitter winter, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said today. But the plan’s progress is being hampered by the lack of locally available building materials, the inadequate roads used to transport the materials, and security problems in many rural areas, the UN agency said. A spokesman for UNHCR, Peter Kessler, said today in Geneva that 13,000 homes have been built so far and another 27,000 are under construction. The UNHCR-funded initiative has the goal of building 52,000 homes this year for around 270,000 refugees. The project includes the refurbishment of 24 public buildings in the Afghan capital Kabul, which currently house squatters. Last year the same UNHCR initiative resulted in more than 40,000 homes, providing shelter to an estimated 200,000 families. At least 541,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland this year, with the majority arriving from Pakistan and Iran.