(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Quake-displaced people start returning home from camps

[Pakistan] Crowded conditions abound at the Bela Nur Shah tent camp in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, following the 8 October quake. [Date picture taken: 11/01/2005]
David Swanson/IRIN

About 1,500 people displaced by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in October 2005 have returned to their areas of origin from makeshift tented settlements in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, aid officials said on Thursday.

“One camp, named Bab-e-Neelum, is now officially closed since all the families from this settlement have gone,” said Arshad Aziz, a field coordinator with the Norwegian Refugee Council in Muzzafarabad, capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Since the earthquake, around 30,000 quake-displaced people, comprising more than 5,000 families, have been living in about 45 makeshift settlements in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, according to camp management officials.
In March, the camp authorities said they would close all tented camps by the end of June this year and quake-displaced families would be returned to their areas in two phases.

In the first phase, about 2,700 families who possess land but lost their houses and livelihoods in the earthquake are being assisted to return by the end of April.

About 250 families have returned so far while another 450 have registered with camp authorities.

The second phase, starting in May, will involve landless families. They will be given an additional grant of about US $1,250 to help them buy land for housing.

Each returnee family is entitled to an assistance package of 14 corrugated iron sheets, two months-worth of food rations and free transportation from the camp to their place of origin.

Although most of the displaced people have started packing their belongings to go home since the return process started, many families from Jhelum Valley are worried as they do not know where to go.

“They have been telling us that their land has been destroyed by landslides but they are not declared landless. Others are fearful of landslides in their places of origin during the monsoon, which is due in three months' time,” NRC coordinator Aziz said.

Recent landslides after heavy winter rains have further added to their fears, Aziz said.

However, Raja Abbas, a commissioner at the Camp Management Organisation, told IRIN on Thursday that “as we are dealing with human beings, we are flexible in our approach and will consider genuine problems of families delaying their return.”

In tandem with the return process, an awareness campaign has been launched for camp residents about the situation in their home areas and available assistance.

“The pamphlets carry information about healthcare facilities, schools, electricity, road conditions and other relevant subjects," said Salim Rehmat, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, which is leading the campaign.

ts/ar/ed

see also
Quake survivors lead bleak life in camps

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