The IRC Launches Program to Help Pakistanis Returning Home
The International Rescue Committee is launching a program that will deliver lifesaving emergency relief to over 200 conflict-affected villages in northwestern Pakistan. The project is funded by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
"People are returning to villages that have been damaged or destroyed by the fighting,” said Mike Young, the IRC’s Pakistan country representative. “The displaced, as well those who stayed behind, need extensive assistance in rebuilding their homes and infrastructure. Through this grant, the IRC will be able to assist thousands of people.”
The Pakistani government now estimates that 1.6 of the 2.3 million displaced by fighting in the North-West Frontier Province as well as the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas have returned to their home districts. To help those most in need, the IRC — together with local authorities, the United Nations and others — will select villages based upon a variety of criteria, including the number of returns and the damage sustained in the community.
Sporadic conflict is still ongoing in each of the districts to which people are returning, but many formerly displaced are ready to return and go on with their lives despite the risks. The IRC will start the projects as soon as community leaders and IRC assessment teams deem the situation stable enough.
Each community will receive a grant of $16,000 to realize two or three emergency relief projects, such as constructing temporary shelters so students can resume classes, or rehabilitating water sources and adding hand pumps to keep water accessible during power outages.
“We are convinced that this will give each community a foothold in the rebuilding process,” Young said. “In some areas, fighting forced 100 percent of the population to leave, and the destruction is total and overwhelming. Even a small community grant gives people a place to start rebuilding their lives.”
Based on several discussions with displaced people in Buner and Swat districts, the IRC anticipates that most of the work will focus on emergency shelter and the rehabilitation of the water and sanitation infrastructure.
“In Swat district, for instance, the local water authorities told us that they currently have no means of testing water quality — which has huge implications for people’s health,” Young said.
The program will be carried out in war-affected communities in the Buner, Swat and Upper/Lower Dir districts in the North West Frontier Province, and the Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas.
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