Return of displaced to Pakistan's South Waziristan to start next month

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is gearing up to help the voluntary return of displaced people to 13 villages in South Waziristan next month, following a return intentions survey showing 85 percent of respondents would like to return home.

UNHCR and its NGO partners conducted the survey among 2,000 displaced families staying in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa province where they fled after a Pakistan army offensive against militants in October 2009. This represents a quarter of the total displaced population from South Waziristan, which is currently estimated at 8,000 families or 56,000 people.

Of those respondents who said they would like to return home, 44 percent said they would like to go back immediately while 26 percent said they would go back in six months time. The main reasons for wanting to return now were improved security, to cultivate land, and so that children can go to school. Some 10 percent said a family member had already been back to their homes since they had been displaced.

The main reasons given by those not yet ready to return was fear of the security situation, damage to houses, lack of livelihood opportunities, electricity, food and education facilities.

UNHCR is supporting the return home with transport, tents, shelter and household items. We are also providing basic construction material to help those with damaged houses to rebuild. UNHCR will also support 'go and see visits' for those people who have not yet been home to see the situation first hand so they can make an informed decision about whether to return.

Across north-west Pakistan, some 700,000 people from the tribal areas remain displaced having fled various waves of conflict since August 2008. The most recently displaced are from Orakzai agency who fled since January this year. Most displaced people live among host communities in Kohat, Hangu, and Peshawar, renting rooms or staying with relatives. Some 97,000 live in the Jalozai camp in Nowshera district, including thousands from Bajaur agency who are facing a third winter in the camp.