Pakistani returns to north-west top 1 million, reports UN

More than 2 million have been displaced by renewed fighting in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province

21 August 2009 – Around 1.6 million of the over 2 million people displaced by conflict in Pakistan’s north-west have returned to their villages, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today, citing Government figures.

The vast majority of the nearly 2.3 million people who had escaped clashes between Government forces and militants were sheltering either in schools and other public buildings, with host families or in rental accommodations.

As a result of the returns, 13 camps have closed down, while another 17 still remain open in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). According to the Provincial Department of Education, the number of schools occupied by internally displaced persons (IDPs) has decreased from 947 to 454, with 2,340 families still living in schools.

Over half of the returnees went back to the districts of Swat and Buner, among the areas hardest hit by the fighting, while the rest returned to Dir and Shangla districts.

To help those returning to their places of origin, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have pledged to provide shelter assistance to about 10,000 families whose homes were damaged.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing food in Waziristan, where the Government says almost 12,630 families have been displaced as a result of a separate military offensive.

OCHA also reported today that donors have stepped up contributions to the $542 million Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, which is now more than 60 per cent funded.

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