Northwest Pakistan: UNHCR concentrating on shelter, registration, camp setup

Briefing Notes, 22 May 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrew Purvis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 May 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of displaced people formally registered by local authorities, with UNHCR's help, since May 2 following fighting in Lower Dir, Buner and Swat districts of Pakistan's north-west has surpassed 1.7 million. About 200,000 of these are in camps and the rest are staying with their families and friends or in schools and other communal buildings.

UNHCR's main role in the joint UN response in the emergency phase of this crisis is to provide shelter and other relief supplies, provide technical help in setting up and coordinating camps and assisting local authorities with registration of displaced people.

In the camps UNHCR is working to provide more shade above tents to help protect people from the intense heat which is reaching 45 degrees Celsius. The displaced people come from much cooler climates in Swat Valley and are suffering particularly, as a result. We will also soon set up separate communal shelters for men and women, or cool rooms, with electricity, fans and coolers to provide more respite from the scorching heat.

We are also constructing individual or communal kitchens in the camps. Until now, the displaced people have been provided with cooked meals by the government but now we need to provide the means, including fuel, for them to cook food rations themselves, including fuel. UNHCR is also installing fabric screens around the tents to provide women with more privacy. We are continuing to identify additional sites for new or extended camps.

Outside of camps, our field teams have recently carried out assessments at over 700 schools in Mardan, Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda and Swabi districts where thousands of people are being accommodated. Earlier this week, we began distributing basic relief supplies to people living in some of these schools. For the most part, however, the displaced people in the schools are relying on the generosity of the Pakistani community as many families living nearby are bringing them food and summer clothing. At the same time, many spontaneous settlements keep appearing, especially in Mardan and Swabi districts.

The Relief Bank established by UNHCR in Nowshera of the North West Frontier Province is now receiving privately donated goods such as fans and summer clothing. We still need pillows, soap, simple water coolers and bed sheets.

As part of a larger joint UN appeal launched today, UNHCR called for a further $84 million dollars for its operations helping displaced people in north-west Pakistan. The combined appeal for the revised Humanitarian Response Plan by the UN and its partners in Pakistan is for a total of US $543,172,583 dollars, with US$88,524,302 already committed. This morning in Islamabad, the UN called for urgent contributions for the remaining $454,648,281 to help the most vulnerable and worst affected for the rest of 2009. UNHCR's total projected needs until the end of 2009 are for $105 million dollars, of which $84 million is still needed.




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Fighting between the army and Taliban militants in and around the Swat Valley in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has displaced more than 1.5 million people since the beginning of May. Some of the displaced are being sheltered in camps set up by the government and supplied by UNHCR. Others - the majority, in fact - are staying in public buildings, such as schools, or with friends and extended family members. Living conditions are harsh. With the onset of summer, rising temperatures are contributing to a range of ailments, especially for villagers from Swat accustomed to a cooler climate. Pakistan's displacement crisis has triggered an outpouring of generosity at home. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is urging a "massive" assistance effort from abroad as well.

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