Families Return Home Despite Rain and Mud


More than 110 families voluntarily returned
to their homes today with IOM providing free transportation and
medical screening for those willing to brave the cold weather and
rain that is hampering the return process across Pakistan's
earthquake-affected region.

Most of those who travelled today were from
the Maira Camp in Batagram District. Forty-eight vehicles made
numerous trips to take families to their homes in the Allai Valley.
An additional nine families were shifted from Maidan camp (Batagram
District) to their villages.

IOM coordinators were forced to scale back
their initial plans on Monday as rain and landslides created
dangerous road conditions and transportation was delayed in
Mansehra, Bagh, Muzaffarabad and Balakot.

"Today was a good start, but it would have
been better without all this rain," said IOM Batagram Coordinator,
Jadranko Bjelica. "Once we get additional trucks – and better
weather – we'll begin to move many more people faster and
more efficiently."

Working in conjunction with the Earthquake
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), IOM has agreed
to coordinate and provide free transportation for those who wish to
return to their home villages and towns in the earthquake affected
area. The return process will be fully operational by 1 April and
most families will be transported after that date.

In order to facilitate safe, dignified and
voluntary returns, IOM will support the government and other
partners in activities such as information campaigns, "go and see
visits", medical screening, transportation and reintegration
projects. These activities will take place in areas of
displacement, en route, as well as in areas of return.

Approximately 3.5 million people were affected
by the earthquake that struck the northern areas of Pakistan and
India on 8 October 8 2005, killing more than 73,000 people.
Available statistics indicate that more than 297,000 displaced
persons are currently living in camps in North West Frontier
Province and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Assistance will focus particularly on
vulnerable groups and will also include initial support to rebuild
their lives. An estimated 40,000 people will be helped to return by
IOM between April and October 2006. In addition there are a large
number of unregistered internally displaced people especially in
camps of less than fifty tents who will need similar

For further information contact:

Saleem Rehmat

IOM Pakistan

Tel: +92 300-856-0341

Email: "mailto:srehmat@iom.int" target="_blank" title=

© IOM 2006 (Photo: Jadranko Bjelica)