Last Updated: Friday, 22 August 2014, 08:29 GMT

Afghanistan: Help promised for returning Marjah IDPs

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 2 March 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Afghanistan: Help promised for returning Marjah IDPs, 2 March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b960e40c.html [accessed 22 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

KABUL, 2 March 2010 (IRIN) - Hundreds of families who fled fighting in the Marjah area of Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, in February have started returning home; conditions are difficult but steps are being taken to help them, government officials say.

Over 4,000 families were displaced by a major anti-Taliban offensive by NATO and Afghan forces which began on 13 February, according to the provincial authorities.

"Over 600 displaced families have returned to Nad Ali and Marjah [both towns in Nad Ali District] from Lashkargah over the past four days," Ghulam Farooq Noorzai, director of Helmand's refugee affairs department, told IRIN, adding that more people would return in the days ahead.

Dawood Ahmadi, a spokesman of the governor of Helmand, gave a bigger return figure: "About 2,500 families have returned to their homes and only 1,000-1,200 families are in Lashkargah."

The government said it is not providing transport assistance to the returning families. Most people were using small cars as they had few belongings.

However, roads around Marjah have been risky because of improvised explosives planted by the insurgents.

"The main Lashkargah-Marjah road is closed due to mines and bombs but people are using alternate routes," said Ahmadi, adding that NATO and Afghan soldiers were working to remove improvised bombs and reopen the main road.

The Interior Ministry said three car passengers were killed in an improvised explosion in the outskirts of Lashkargah city on 1 March.

Having announced the end of the military phase of the operation, NATO and Afghan government officials have vowed swiftly to deliver security, good governance and services.

People would also receive financial assistance from the government and NATO if their houses or other property was damaged or destroyed as a result of the offensive, Ahmadi said.

Health centres

"We have reopened and supplied with medicines four basic health centres in Marjah and Nad Ali," Enayatullah Ghafari, head of Helmand's public health department, told IRIN, adding that plans are under way to conduct a polio immunization campaign in the area because in February a sub-national immunization drive was not implemented there.

Government officials said schools will be reopened in Marjah and Nad Ali in the near future. Over the past two years, under the Taliban, all schools in the area had been closed.

However, not everyone is happy: "The Taliban were just and efficient but the Karzai government is corrupt and bad," said one man in Lashkargah city.

Shops are reopening in Marjah but food and other prices are high because of shortages: Roadside bombs and insecurity are a disincentive to local truckers.

"We have asked the UN and other international aid agencies to help us quickly deliver food aid to 6,000 families in Marjah and Nad Ali and we hope they will respond soon," said Noorzai.

Some of the displaced children attending health centres in Lashkargah town in mid-February were acutely malnourished, according to Ghafari, who added that food insecurity threatened the health of many children and pregnant women.

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