The UN refugee agency has helped 38,000 people displaced by militancy-hit Pakistan’s tribal areas return over the past two months, a UN news release said on Tuesday.
The latest phase of the voluntary return operation, organised by the Pakistani government wrapped up on Sunday, according to the UNHCR, whose staff monitored the process to ensure that returns were voluntary and funded the transport of returnees.
Displacement from Pakistan’s tribal areas began in 2008 in the wake of the government’s crackdown on militants. At the height of the displacement crisis in 2009, more than 21,000 families, or around 147,000 people, were registered in the Jalozai Camp – the largest of the 4 camps in the tribal areas for internally-displaced people.
At the same time, around 90 % of the displaced lived outside camps, with friends, relatives or in rented accommodation.
The 38 thousand people that returned in the latest operation went back to homes in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies both of which are in the northern part of Fata bordering Afghanistan, the news release said.
In addition to monitoring the process and funding the transport of returnees, UNHCR also set up warehouses in both areas that provided returning families with basic household supplies, it said. Tents were given to those whose homes were damaged for use as temporary shelters while repairs are carried out.
Other UN agencies are also providing help, with the WFP enrolling returnees in cash-for-work programmes, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) providing hygiene kits, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) offering healthcare through a partner organisation, the news release said.
An estimated 5,000 families – about 26,000 individuals – remain in Jalozai as most of them are residents of the areas, which are being still considered unsafe for return.