about the author
Public Information Officer in Pakistan
Former journalist for BBC, Dumeetha Luthra joined WFP in 2009 and is PI Officer in Pakistan.
Mohammed Gulab and his family are among the relatively few Pakistanis who have been able to return to their homes in the northern regions affected by fighting over the last year. WFP is now distributing food to them and other returnee families so they can begin again.
ISLAMABAD -- Mohammad Gulab’s house was flattened last year when fighting between government forces and the Taliban exploded in his home district of Bajaur. He himself was slightly injured. So as soon as he could, he fled with his wife, parents, three sons and 11 daughters. “It was awful. The kids were so scared. We were all frightened,” he recalls.
While continuing to feed more than 2 million Pakistanis displaced by fighting in the north, WFP has also begun distributing rations to returnees in the remote district of Bajaur. It’s the first UN distribution to returnees anywhere in the country.
Almost half a million people fled Bajour, close to the Afghan border. The area was at the centre of clashes last year between Pakistani government forces and the Taliban.
Now people are slowly beginning to return. The numbers are still small, but WFP has established a humanitarian hub to provide food rations for those who have chosen to go back. Read news release
The family wound up in a camp for displaced people and stayed there for several months. But now the fighting in Bajaur seems to be over and Mohammed and his family have returned. Mohammed is trying slowly to recreate their old life. He still can’t rebuild his home but at least he’s in his own area. The family is staying with relatives for now.
Mohammed said it was a major relief to find about WFP food rations for returnees. “Up to now we’ve been sharing our relatives’ food. I know we’re a burden on them, but we have had no choice. These rations are a great help.”
He and his family feel relatively safe and comfortable now. But without the WFP food assistance he says he would have been forced to leave his family and go find work elsewhere. “Without these rations our family would have been forced to live apart.”
At the humanitarian hub set up to help returnees, there are almost 100 people lining up outside. “The mood is good, people are just happy to be home,” says Mohammad Ayub, one of the organizers.
"It feels better"
But the mood is tinged with tension at what the future holds. Mohammad Gulab says it will take a while to recover. He describes how the houses have been destroyed and the land left barren.
“We grow maize and wheat on this land, but now we can’t do anything on it. We’re happy to be back. It’s not like it used to be but we’re satisfied with what peace there is. As more people return it feels better.”
So far the returns are small in number, but are slowly increasing. WFP’s main focus is still assisting the majority of IDPs - those living in host communities and camps. But it is preparing other such humanitarian hubs for returnees in areas such as Buner.