Pakistan: Many earthquake survivors have returned home, but many vulnerable remain in camps
Six months after the earthquake of 8 October 2005 in Pakistan, more than 64,000 earthquake survivors have left relief camps for home. Thirty camps have closed, leaving 86,750 people in over 120 camps with 50 or more tents.
Since the Pakistani authorities announced the start of camp closure on 10 March, North West Frontier Province has seen 53,379 camp dwellers returning home and 25 camps closed. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, 10,889 people have returned to their villages from camps in a process that started in late March. Five camps have closed there.
UNHCR continues to stress that returns must be voluntary and that people are informed. We've launched a campaign in the camps to inform people about how the government plans to assist them upon their return. As a member of the 'protection cluster' led by UNICEF, our staff are also monitoring returns at the point of departure in camps.
Inevitably, there will be some vulnerable people who cannot go home immediately for various reasons. Some have been orphaned, widowed or disabled; others have lost their land or come from towns like Balakot, which lies on major fault lines and has to be relocated. It is extremely important that these vulnerable people continue to be assisted until more permanent solutions are found for them.
UNHCR welcomes the NWFP government's decision to set aside three camps for these residual groups. The camps are Siran Sialkot in the Siran Valley, Ghari Habibullah in Balakot, and Meira in Besham, which will be run by the Regional Relief Coordinator. To prepare them for this task, UNHCR has provided training in camp management through partners like Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief (RedR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).