Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

Nepal: IDPs still waiting for help, despite peace accord

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 6 August 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: IDPs still waiting for help, despite peace accord, 6 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/489c1be312.html [accessed 12 July 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, 6 August 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of people displaced by Nepal's decade-long Maoist conflict still await help almost 21 months since a comprehensive peace accord was signed.

[See overview analysis of Nepal's decade-long civil war]

"The Maoist rebels killed my daughter and announced my death by hanging, and they still continue with their threats," Dig Bahadur Gurung, a political worker who has lived as an internally displaced person (IDP) for eight years after refusing to support the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, said.

The Maoists are today the largest elected party in the Constituent Assembly but a large number of IDPs live in constant fear of the former rebels, despite their leaders' commitment to allow them to return to their homes safely.

On 21 November 2006, the Maoists and the Seven-Party Alliance-led government signed a historic peace agreement to officially end the armed "People's War" - a bloody conflict that killed 13,000 and displaced an estimated 200,000.

The reintegration and rehabilitation of the IDPs was viewed as a key issue. But aside from providing travel expenses for their return, little has been done to facilitate the overall process, said human rights workers.

The government failed to make any provision to protect the IDPs, nor did it provide a support package to re-establish their livelihoods and income opportunities, IDPs in Kathmandu complain.

"I asked the Chief District Officer [CDO] to arrange security for me to return but he told me that he couldn't promise anything and rather asked me to stay in the capital for my safety," said Gurung, who said that even someone as powerful as the CDO - who as the district's top government official has authority over the security force - sounded helpless.

"Now how can I return?" asked Gurung. He was forced to leave his home in Ramechhap District, nearly 100km east of the capital, in 1999. Many former IDPs were now being re-displaced due to insecurity in the villages, he said.

Maoist leaders, however, deny their cadres are threatening the IDPs.

"Many IDPs still live in fear of violence and insecurity. Proper restitution of the IDPs has not been taken seriously," Suresh Pandit, an advocacy officer for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IRIN.

The root causes of displacement have to be identified and addressed instead of merely returning people to their places of origin, he added.

Pandit noted that a large number of the IDPs were unable to acquire civil documents, compensation and other rights, as stated in the government's 2007 IDP policy.

Government ready to help

"Our district offices have been trying their best to provide support to the IDPs but they themselves are overburdened with security tasks," said Durga Nidhi Sharma, the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction's joint secretary, adding that the government planned to introduce programmes to provide IDPs with poverty alleviation programmes, free education, health and employment.

But he explained that the situation was exacerbated by insufficient data for an accurate picture of the IDP situation.

"There is a lack of a mechanism to monitor, evaluate and document cases of forced displacement. We are still struggling for authentic data after all these years," confirmed Padma Prasad Khatiwada, a lecturer at Nepal's Tribhuwan University.

Based on the number of registered IDPs, the government estimates there are 44,831 IDPs in the country, while NGOs and international agencies put their actual numbers at between 50,000 and 70,000.

"There is no proper data on how many IDPs are children. How many are not going to school? How many are elderly? And most important is how many actually need the support?" asked Bishnu Raj Upreti, an independent conflict analyst.

Any amount of aid Nepal receives for IDPs would have little to no impact without a proper mechanism to identify the beneficiaries, he said.

Meanwhile, the main donors to the Nepal Peace Trust Fund, established under the Finance Ministry, have approved a government proposal to distribute a relief and rehabilitation package of US$5.6 million to a total of 50,000 IDPs who were ready to return to their homes.

But so far only a few have received reintegration assistance to rebuild their destroyed homes, educational assistance and livelihood loans, according to a report, IDPs - Current Status, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, released in July.

The report recommended that while return may be the preferred solution for many, it is not the solution for all, and the authorities and donors should consider support for IDP integration or resettlement to an appropriate location.

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