The International Organization for Migration reports more families displaced by sectarian violence and military operations in Iraq are returning to certain areas of the capital, Baghdad where security has improved over the past few months. But, IOM says these growing numbers still represent a small percentage of the nearly three million Iraqis who remain internally displaced. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from IOM headquarters in Geneva.
The International Organization for Migration reports more than 4,000 families or some 24,000 people have returned to their former homes in Baghdad's eastern Sadr City in recent weeks. This, despite sporadic clashes between Iraqi Forces and insurgents.
IOM says most health facilities and schools, as well as some shops, have reopened in Sadr city. It says returns to Baghdad's Rasheed sub-district also are gathering momentum.
IOM Spokesman, Jean-Philippe Chauzy tells VOA the main reasons families cite for returning home include improved security and reconciliation among various competing groups, particularly tribal leaders, the Iraq Multi-National Force and local authorities.
But, he warns these returns are very fragile and could be easily reversed.
"Anecdotal evidence shows that families who have returned to their areas of o rigin will only be able to sustain themselves if they get enough assistance," said Chauzy. "What we know from experience is that families who have returned will probably consider displacement if they feel that security is not adequate in their area of origin or if they feel that they cannot sustain themselves in their home communities. So, there is a big need at the moment to make sure that those returns are sustainable."
Chauzy says access to basic services remains very difficult for those who have returned home. He says many children cannot go to school because their parents have lost the ration cards that are needed to enroll them.
He says many families cannot return to their former homes, either because they were destroyed or are currently occupied by squatters.
Five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the country continues to face a displacement crisis. More than 2.7 million Iraqis remain homeless.
IOM calls these people the poorest of the poor. It says they lack shelter, do not receive regular food rations, and have limited access to drinkable water, medicine and education.