ISLAMABAD - With the de-escalation in tension between the security forces and the militants, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan Agency and other tribal agencies have started returning homes as the United Nations and humanitarian partners seek over $300 million for the provision of humanitarian assistance to over 2.3 million people including a million in the north west and 1.3 million in rural Sindh.

According to a fresh humanitarian update issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Pakistan, $282 million are required for the humanitarian needs in Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, $55 for NWA contingency plan (in case full-scale operation is launched) and $11.67 million for emergency response in Tharparkar.

While over one million people remain displaced in the northwest, the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) estimates the return of over 45,000 families in 2014. It says humanitarian partners continue to monitor the situation in NWA and plan for an appropriate response in case further needs emerge.

The fluid and unpredictable nature of the displacements and spontaneous returns complicate the planning process. If asked by the government to provide assistance, humanitarian partners estimate that at least $55 million will be required to provide basic humanitarian assistance for six months in the event of a full-scale security operation in NWA, the UN agency says.

More than 25,000 locals mainly from the NWA and other tribal agencies relocated mostly to Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar following security forces-launched aerial strikes on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) hideouts. Last week, the federal government was to officially recognise the relocated masses as IDPs who were to be kept in the specially designated camps near Bannu before the government decided to have them repatriated following a change in its policy with the de-escalation in the tension in the region.

Sources in the Ministry of States and Frontier Region (SAFRON) said, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided for the repatriation of the IDPs after consulting Federal Minister for SAFRON Lieutenant General (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch as well as senior federal and provincial disaster management and security officials.

The minister, when approached, confirmed this development saying the decision was taken following an improvement in the security situation in the Fata. To a query, he said, the IDPs would be relocated again in case the military action became inevitable. “As of now, the peace talks are yielding results. But, if required, the IDPs could be relocated again. They have been repatriated because it was not a feasible idea to keep them in the camps for long especially when the security situation was improving.”

In its update, the OCHA on Friday cited the local authorities’ figures, which indicate that approximately 5,000 of the estimated 25,000 people who fled their villages following aerial strikes targeting militants in February this year had returned as of March 20. “More IDPs are expected to return in the coming days due to reduced security operations in NWA and the return of a sense of calm. A similar pattern of population movements occurred after the first wave of displacements in January,” the update referred to the displacement of over 20,000 people from NWA in January who later returned.

According to assessments conducted by local partners, 82 per cent of the IDPs sought shelter in rented accommodation, 17 per cent among families and friends, and one per cent in community centres and schools, with a few families living in tents. “Although the government did not declare the affected areas as calamity-hit nor request humanitarian assistance, local humanitarian organisations provided basic food and non-food items to some of the IDPs, while the majority relied on donations and their own limited resources,” the OCHA said.

On a positive note, it said, health partners were able to vaccinate against polio more than 7,000 children under five years from NWA where local groups have banned vaccinations. The children were vaccinated at various transit points and hosting locations as they crossed into KPK from NWA.

The UN says government authorities and humanitarian partners are working to develop a plan which will facilitate the return of families who wish to return to their homes in Fata and ensure the returns are safe, voluntary and well-informed. While the FDMA estimates that as many as 45,000 families (270,000 people) may wish to return this year, insecurity may not permit all those to return - in particular, the estimated 6,831 families to Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency and the 4,790 families hoping to return to Orakzai Agency.

On the humanitarian situation in Tharparkar, Sindh, the UN said more funds are urgently required to scale up support for nutrition interventions, including sustainable development solutions,  to tackle the nutrition crisis in the drought-affected Tharparkar region.

Overall, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and FAO and their partners are seeking $11.67 million to scale up nutrition and other support to over 1.3 million people for a year in Tharparkar and surrounding districts.

According to Tharparkar district authorities, 99 children and 67 adults (43 men and 24 women) have reportedly died in Tharparkar since the beginning of 2014 due to a combination of chronic malnutrition, a lack of access to effective health facilities, lower than average rainfall in Chachro, Diplo, Khinser, Islamkot, Mithi tehsils (sub-districts), and an outbreak of sheep pox which has killed thousands of small animals.