The United Nations Refugee Agency joined the local authorities in handing over ownership rights to some 400 newly-constructed one-room shelters to a fishing community that was left homeless after the last year’s floods.
The handing over ceremony was organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday. The families that took part in the ceremony belong to the Jam community.
Addressing the ceremony, UNHCR representative in Pakistan Neill Wright said that the event marked the first time in the lives of these people they could claim ownership to a piece of land.
“Their new ownership of land and property is complemented by the gradual restoration of many basic rights that this marginalised group has been denied for decades,” he said.
The UNHCR also plans to help these people get their national identity cards, a community centre, a mosque, water supply and access to healthcare and education, he said.
The concrete shelter units each contain a common room, a kitchen and a toilet.
The Punjab government had provided 38 acres of land for the construction of a model village for the affected families, who prior to the floods were living on the banks of the Indus River in make-shift huts and boats in the city.
The 400 shelters are part of nearly 4,000 one-room houses that the UNHCR has constructed for flood victims in Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, DG Khan, Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh.
Thanking the government for its support, Wright said, “I am proud that together with non-governmental partners, the UNHCR has been able to support the government in assisting some of the most vulnerable victims of the devastating floods.”
In addition to its work to provide protection and assistance to refugees in Pakistan and its support to the government in assisting internally displaced citizens, UNHCR has constructed shelters in four provinces of Pakistan for families displaced by the floods of 2010 and 2011.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.
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