IOM Press Briefing Notes 10 Aug 2001: Afghanistan, Uganda, Guinea
Afghanistan - Herat Shelter Project
IOM is to launch a major programme to build 6,000 mud brick shelters in the Maslakh transit camp in Herat, Western Afghanistan.
In partnership with Habitat, the UN housing agency, IOM will employ 1,000 camp residents over a ten-week period to make some 27 million mud bricks. The IDPs will then build their own shelters.
Mud brick structures are cheaper than tents, more resistant to summer heat and winter cold, more wind and dust-proof, and generally more secure. They are also less likely to be sold on the open market by the beneficiaries.
People displaced by the three-year drought continue to arrive in Herat. Despite recent floods in the eastern part of the country, no rain has yet fallen in Western Afghanistan this year.
The Taliban authorities have also given IOM and its UN partner agencies the go-ahead to identify a new camp location near Herat to ease chronic overcrowding in Maslakh.
Last Sunday, IOM and the Taliban Ministry of Martyrs and Repatriation counted the number of Maslakh shelters and buildings to calculate the camp population. The count was needed because many camp arrivals register more than once to try to get additional ration cards.
IOM is currently coordinating aid to both Maslakh and Shaidayee camps in Herat and on 15 August will take over food distribution on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Shaidayee. Shaidayee, with a population of 25,000 is now closed to new arrivals.
WFP food is currently distributed through block leaders, who hold the rations cards of block residents, but in the future it will be channelled through individual heads of families to minimise fraud.
Overcrowding and limited services in Maslakh may be inducing more camp residents to think about returning to their places of origin. According to IOM Herat Chief of Mission Rafael Robillard, over 11,000 people have registered with IOM expressing an interest in going home.
"The challenge facing us and other agencies considering pilot return schemes is to figure out ways for them to survive and restart their livelihoods after they get home, particularly if the winter rains fail for the third year running," he says.
IOM is currently working on the design of an internal transportation network using locally available vehicles to help people to return home as soon as conditions permit.
Uganda - Return Assistance to Ex-Abductees
Today IOM assisted a group of 48 Ugandans, 50% females (23 adults, 25 minors), to return home from Sudan. The returning abductees were kidnapped last year by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from various locations in Northern Uganda and taken to Sudan. They managed to escape and made their way to the southern town of Juba where they were referred to UNICEF by the Sudanese military.
In Juba they were given medical treatment by Save the Children UK and UNICEF and screened to confirm their identity. Once in Khartoum, they were sent to a transit centre run by IOM and Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission.
IOM organised the return flight and provided an escort from Khartoum to Entebbe via Nairobi. Another IOM flight to repatriate a further 25 abductees is scheduled for next Wednesday.
IOM, UNICEF and government representatives met the group on arrival. Later today, UNICEF will transport the group to their homes in Gulu, Kitgum, Moyo and Apac in northern Uganda. Local NGOs will receive the returning abductees and provide them with trauma counselling.
IOM is working with the Canadian government, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children-UK and the Humanitarian Aid Commission to organise the return of all abductees. Their return is part of a bilateral agreement between the governments of Sudan and Uganda.
The Abducted Children Registration and Information System, a database developed and maintained jointly by UNICEF and the Ugandan government, estimates that about one-third of the 26,365 cases of abduction recorded involve children under the age of 18 (about 8,788 cases). Roughly 20 per cent of the recorded abductees are female.
IOM has so far returned a total of 212 abductees to Uganda. The repatriation operation is funded by the Canadian government.
Guinea - IOM Suspends Returns by Sea
On Wednesday, the IOM chartered ship the MV Overbeck transported 150 refugees from Conakry to Freetown. In July, the ship only completed two rotations between Conakry and Freetown with a total of 365 returnees. The charter will be discontinued following this voyage due to lack of funding and the fact that relatively few refugees currently want to return to Sierra Leone.
Close to 25,000 refugees have been repatriated to Sierra Leone since IOM took over the operation in January 2001. This operation has been financed by Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States and may be resumed if the need arises.
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