Thursday, November 08, 2007

Nepal: Safe for 5,000 displaced families to return home

More than 5,000 displaced families taking refuge in Nepalgunj, a Nepalese city adjoining India, will be able to return home by December, according to aid agencies.

“There is now hope among the displaced families that they will be able to live in their home villages without fear of being forced out of their homes again,” activist Bhola Mahat from the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a local human rights NGO, told IRIN on 7 November.

INSEC has been playing a key role in convincing the former Maoist rebels to allow the safe return of families forcefully displaced.

“The Maoists have assured [us of] their cooperation and they have already agreed to return the land and properties seized from the displaced villagers,” said Mahat, who said more than 600 villagers had returned to Rolpa district, 500km northwest of the capital.

The return to Rolpa is significant as it was in this remote hill district that the Maoists launched their armed rebellion in 1996 and where the first displacements took place.

Local rights groups reckon the number of IDPs has fallen to 50,000 from 200,000 after the peace agreement was signed in November 2006 between the government and Maoists.

“We are all set to start our rehabilitation programme for the displaced families who are returning to their homes,” said Dolak Dagi, an officer of the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS).

With the input of Save the Children (USA), INSEC and NRCS are helping to return displaced families, especially in the mid-western region, where most of the displacement took place during the Maoist insurgency.

“Now even the Maoists are actively helping to ensure the IDPs are able to properly reintegrate into their villages and start a new life,” said Dagi.

The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction said it would provide cash support and other assistance to ensure the returning families are properly rehabilitated, said NRCS.

Officials say the joint effort between the human rights NGOs, aid agencies and Nepalese government is proving to be fruitful and motivating more displaced families to return home. Thousands of IDPs living in the Nepalese capital are on their way to Nepalgunj to get help from the agencies, according to aid workers.

Rehabilitation under way

But the displaced families still face the challenge of rebuilding their lives and sustaining livelihoods, according to NRCS, which is working with SCF (US) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on rehabilitating livelihoods of IDPs in 24 districts.

Due to a lack of development activity during the conflict, many remote villages failed to maintain water and irrigation systems, NRCS specialists said, and houses are run down. The families will be provided with free crop seeds and farming equipment, and helped to renovate their houses and water and irrigation systems, said NRCS officials.

Published with the permission of IRIN
Disclaimer: This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or Mike Hitchen Consulting
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