Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Nepal: Stalled government policy leaves IDPs in limbo

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 4 March 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Stalled government policy leaves IDPs in limbo, 4 March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b94b5ba14.html [accessed 21 September 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.

KATHMANDU, 4 March 2010 (IRIN) - Efforts to help thousands of families displaced during Nepal's decade-long armed conflict (1996-2006) to return to their homes or resettle have stalled over government inaction, leaving many unassisted, aid agencies say.

There are an estimated 52,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered with the government, according to the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MOPR), although the UN estimates there could be up to 70,000.

In 2007, the government formulated a national IDP policy that allowed for the return, integration and resettlement of IDPs.

Crucial directives for implementing the policy on the ground were also submitted to the Cabinet at the end of 2007, but are still waiting to be approved.

"The failed implementation of the IDP policy is clearly at the heart of the problem," said Frederik Kok, senior country analyst with the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

"The failure to adopt the directives is undermining return efforts and preventing IDPs from enjoying their full rights," he told IRIN.

The IDP policy provides assistance which includes shelter, food, security, health services, training and appropriate compensation. It also includes a rehabilitation programme for IDPs to help them recover their lives where they used to reside.

The directives were intended to give clear instructions from the central government to district-level officials on how to implement this policy.

Wendy Cue, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nepal, said information about the IDP policy and its implementation had not been transmitted to district-level authorities, who are key in ensuring IDP returns and rehabilitation.

"The displaced people haven't received the type of assistance they need in terms of legal assistance or access to information that the government should provide," Cue told IRIN.

Assistance lacking

About half of the IDPs are in Kathmandu, where they live in squatter settlements, crowded neighbourhoods and along the Bagmati river. Families are also scattered in the urban areas of Bardiya and Dhangadi districts in the country's mid- and far-western regions, and other major cities such as Biratnagar and Nepalgunj. "We... have been constantly making efforts to help the IDPs," Shankar Prasad Pathak, a senior official from the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, told IRIN.

"We will be introducing an IDP rehabilitation programme which includes income generation and reintegration support for the IDP families," he added.

In spite of these efforts, displaced families still lack access to basic services such as water and sanitation, and health and education, and have poor livelihood opportunities, say agencies.

Mistrust

Meanwhile, those IDPs who do attempt to return to their homes face a number of obstacles, according to the latest report on Nepal IDPs issued on 28 January 2010 by the IDMC.

Returnees have to cope with inadequate livelihood opportunities and discrimination borne of the mistrust amongst communities generated during the years of conflict. Along with the IDPs, returnees are also locked in a struggle to win back homes and land confiscated by the rebel Maoists and their supporters during the conflict.

"We have lost all hope of ever reclaiming our land and have lost our only source of livelihood," said Dipendra Shrestha, originally from mid-western Bardiya District, but who fled the conflict and now lives in Nepalgunj city.

"The question is, what do they return for when they have no land to grow their crops and many suffer from insecurity," said Bhola Mahat, regional coordinator of the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a Nepali human rights group.

Losing interest?

Besides the stalled implementation of the government's IDP policy, aid workers say they are now concerned about diminishing interest by the international aid community in this issue, now rarely discussed.

Since 2008 there has been a gradual disengagement of the UN and the international community in general, including international NGOs, from the issue of conflict-induced IDPs, according to the NRC.

"Priorities have now again shifted back to development programmes with decreasing funding available for humanitarian programmes," said the NRC's Kok.

The humanitarian community has also lost its capacity, while local and international NGOs and UN agencies are no longer as active on the issue as before, said OCHA's Cue.

"We are trying to get together and find the capacity to have somebody who can focus on this issue to work with the government and get the IDP directives passed," she added.

Government forces battled Maoist guerrillas for 10 years before a peace agreement was signed in November 2006, ending an anti-monarchist revolt that killed more than 13,000 people.

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