Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Hunt for IDPs

So my whole reason for coming to Nepal was to develop a proposal for livelihood skill building and improvement of community services for the conflict affected internally displaced population (IDPs) in Nepal. After numerous meetings with Government officials and other humanitarian organizations in Kathmandu last week we had learned that there were over 5,000 IDPs in our target area of the Western lowlands (terai) of Nepal.

So Phanindra and I traveled to the field for 3 days to do an on-the-ground needs assessment of the IDP population that we have heard so much about. After 3 days of hunting for IDPs, we have come to the conclusion, which has been confirmed by the UN, DFID, and many local leaders, that there are no IDPs left! The real conflict ended over a year ago, the majority of the families have already returned to their ruined homes and villages to restart their lives. It’s true that there are still a few scattered families who are displaced, but these families are typically better off than those that did return, and way better off than those that were never able to leave their war-torn villages throughout the 10 year conflict.
In traveling throughout the Bardiya District (Mid-Western Nepal along the border with India) we saw a lot of poverty and met many people, particularly women, who were heavily affected by the conflict: women whose husbands were killed or have disappeared, orphans whose parents were killed, victims of the violence suffering from amputations and injuries. These people aren’t truly IDPs in the sense of the word, the majority of them weren’t displaced, they suffered heavily at home in the conflict zone, but these are the ones who need the most help.
So now I’m back in Kathmandu to wrap up my trip and re-evaluate my proposal, caught between the mandate of the donor for targeting IDPs, and the true needs of the communities on the ground.

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