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Displaced Pakistanis head home

Pakistan, August 21, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Nine-year-old Zafar Ali left his home in the district of Dir when fighting broke out between the Pakistan army and Taliban militants. Zafar was one of more than 1,300 kids who participated in a Mercy Corps program to provide a variety of games and toys to displaced children under the supervision of community volunteers. Photo: Mercy Corps

Here's the latest from our team in Pakistan, which continues to help families from northwest Pakistan displaced earlier this year by the fighting between Taliban militants and the Pakistan army.

An average of 500 to 1,500 displaced families are returning to their homes each day. According to government data, 228,768 families of the 329,000 "verified" as displaced have returned to their homes in the districts of Swat, Buner and Dir.

Despite the high volume of returnees, the security situation in parts of Swat and Buner remains tenuous. While most of the major roads are open for traffic, reports of armed Taliban along the periphery are common. The military continues to conduct operations in many parts of Swat. Despite these risks, people are returning home to start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.

We've sent several assessment teams to Swat to determine how we can best support returning families. In Mingora, we are working to improve water supply for more than 25,000 people. And we've submitted a proposal to bring clean water, improved sanitation and employment assistance to more residents of the district.

Our activities for displaced youth engaged a total of 642 boys and 743 at six locations. Under the same project, six nutrition trainings for 241 mothers. The tents, chairs, tables, whiteboards and electric fans were handed over to the schools, and the kids were allowed to take home toys and sports equipment.

We improved sanitation conditions and water access for 400 families living in 22 schools and one "spontaneous camp." Our teams constructed or rehabilitated 18 wells handpumps, 55 latrines, 61 bathrooms, 38 washing platforms, 14 drainage facilities, 27 waste-bins and 13 electric water coolers. They also distributed 16,000 water purification tablets, 400 hygiene kits, and 300 buckets and ablution pots.