Afghanistan

More internally displaced Afghans bound for home

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BAMYAN, Afghanistan, April 22 (UNHCR) - Nationwide efforts are intensifying to help internally displaced Afghans return home, with up to 7,500 expected to return in the next eight days under a joint programme between UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
On Monday, the first internally displaced persons (IDPs) left Bamyan city for Shaidan district in central Afghanistan. A convoy of 12 mini-buses and 14 trucks ferried 1,396 people to 13 villages in Shaidan valley. Under the joint UNHCR-IOM programme, each returning family receives a tent, cooking and heating stoves, sweaters, as well as seeds and tools kit.

Sunday saw the first IDPs leave the Hesar Shahi camp near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan for their villages of origin. Hesar Shahi hosts nearly 24,000 people forced to flee by the combined effects of war, drought and poverty. Of these, over 13,100 had expressed the desire to return to their homes in Kabul, Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces; some 3,600 said they would like to return at a later date; while 7,300 said they did not want to go home.

So far, some 666 IDPs have gone back to villages in Nangarhar province. Plans to assist returns to the nearby province of Laghman have been put on hold following armed clashes that reportedly killed two people in the capital Mehtarlam.

UNHCR is providing the Hesar Shahi IDPs with transport and blankets, plastic sheets, jerry cans, buckets and soap. They will also receive 150 kilograms of wheat from the World Food Programme.

Last week, the UN refugee agency concluded the repatriation of thousands of IDPs from the old Soviet compound in Kabul back to their villages in the Shomali plain. The last 2,697 IDPs returned home Thursday, bringing to 14,625 the total number of people who have been assisted in a programme launched by UNHCR, the Ministry of Repatriation and IOM in early March.

Afghanistan has more than 1.2 million IDPs. Since December, UNHCR has helped nearly 25,000 of them return to their homes in central and eastern Afghanistan. In all, the refugee agency plans to assist the return and reintegration of some 400,000 IDPs this year.