Relief kits help Pakistan's displaced as they return home or cope with temporary exile

News Stories, 24 August 2009

© UNHCR/A.Rummery
In Peshawar, a displaced young man carries off his family's relief items sleeping mats, plastic sheets and other household goods donated by a United Arab Emirates charity and distributed last week by UNHCR.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, August 24 (UNHCR) Since fleeing shelling in her village in Lower Dir in northwest Pakistan three months ago, Amna* has been living with her family in two rented rooms in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province and a refuge for many who fled fighting.

After receiving a family kit of sheets, quilts, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, plastic sheets, jerry cans and kitchen utensils from UNHCR last week, the 24-year old is now heading home a journey of about four hours to join her husband, a farmer, who returned several weeks ago.

"Even though it is quieter now at home and peace is restored, everything is very expensive as the economy has been disrupted," she says of life in Lower Dir, some 180 kilometres from Peshawar.

At Shahi Bagh sports stadium in Peshawar over the past week, UNHCR distributed family kits to more than 21,000 families staying outside of camps in host communities. The agency was able to provide these goods thanks to support of the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan Foundation of the United Arab Emirates.

Government officials say more than half of northwest Pakistan's 2.3 million people have now returned to their homes, while many others, still hesitating, appreciate ongoing support in safer areas.

"We are reluctant to go back as the situation in Lower Dir is uncertain and there are rumours that the government could restart military operations," said 25-year-old newlywed Mohammed Khalid, who fled three months ago with his parents, siblings and wife.

Khalid, has a university education but is now jobless, lives in a rented house with his family and says there is still no water or electricity in his home town. He says he appreciates the assistance from UNHCR and the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan Foundation.

"I am very happy with the continuous support of the UNHCR," he said. "The agency is still active like it was in the beginning."

A beehive of activity at Peshawar's main bus station also testified that many formerly displaced Pakistanis who have already returned home made the journey back to Peshawar to collect the relief items.

Many loaded their new kits onto buses and cars and headed home for the second time since the government's formal return program began on 13 July, intent on using the goods to help restart their lives.

Riaz Khan, 38, returned to his Swat Valley home on July. With his hands paralysed, the grey-bearded Khan said he had to walk 20 kilometres from Mingora to Barikot when the military operation started three months ago. He came back to Peshawar to pick up his family kit but would have preferred not to make the journey.

"The role of UNHCR is commendable, but what you people should do is to set up distribution points in Swat so that the people could get their relief items in their own areas," said Khan, the father of five.

Security restrictions have hampered UNHCR's relief distribution in return areas but the agency is planning to distribute relief through humanitarian hubs and distribution points in Swat, Buner and Dir. UNHCR has so far distributed family kits to more than 193,000 families (or almost 1.3 million people) in northwest Pakistan.

The donation from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan Foundation is helping UNHCR give relief kits to more than 120,000 displaced families (more than 800,000 people) in Pakistan.

Additional funds will provide shelter kits for families returning to damaged houses, packages of dates, flour and other food items for the 20,000 families remaining in camps and host communities in North West Frontier Province in the approach to Eid, and assistance to people displaced by fighting in South Waziristan.

By Qaiser Khan Afridi and Ariane Rummery
In Peshawar

*All names changed for protection reasons.




UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.


From life-saving aid to help with shelter, health, water, education and more.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

With winter fast approaching and well over a million people reported homeless in quake-stricken Pakistan, UNHCR and its partners are speeding up the delivery and distribution of hundreds of tonnes of tents, blankets and other relief supplies from around the world.

In all, the NATO-UNHCR airlift, which began on 19 October, will deliver a total of 860 tonnes of supplies from our stockpiles in Iskenderun, Turkey. Separately, by 25 October, UNHCR-chartered aircraft had so far delivered 14 planeloads of supplies to Pakistan from the agency's stocks in Copenhagen, Dubai and Jordan.

On the ground, UNHCR is continuing to distribute aid supplies in the affected areas to help meet some of the massive needs of an estimated 3 million people.

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

Pakistan Earthquake: The Initial Response

The UN refugee agency is providing hundreds of tonnes of urgently needed relief supplies for victims in northern Pakistan. UNHCR is sending family tents, hospital tents, plastic sheeting, mattresses, kitchen sets, blankets and other items from its global stockpiles. Within a few days of the earthquake, just as its substantial local stocks were all but exhausted, UNHCR began a series of major airlifts from its warehouses around the world, including those in Denmark, Dubai, Jordan and Turkey.

UNHCR does not normally respond to natural disasters, but it quickly joined the UN humanitarian effort because of the sheer scale of the destruction, because the quake affected thousands of Afghan refugees, and because the agency has been operational in Pakistan for more than two decades. North West Frontier Province (NWFP), one of the regions most severely affected by the quake, hosts 887,000 Afghan refugees in camps.

While refugees remain the main focus of UNHCR's concern, the agency is integrated into the coordinated UN emergency response to help quake victims.

Pakistan Earthquake: The Initial Response

Pakistan Earthquake: Major push to Bring in Aid before Winter

With the snow line dropping daily, the race to get relief supplies into remote mountain areas of Pakistani-administered Kashmir intensifies. In a major push to bring aid to the people in the Leepa Valley, heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the British Royal Air force airlifted in 240 tonnes of UNHCR emergency supplies, including tents, plastic sheeting, stoves, and kitchen sets.

At lower elevations, UNHCR and its partners have dispatched emergency teams to camps to train members of the Pakistani military in site planning, camp management, winterization and the importance of water and sanitation – all crucial to containing disease during the long winter ahead.

By mid-November, UNHCR had provided a total of 19,356 tents, 152,325 blankets, 71,395 plastic sheets and tens of thousands of jerry cans, kitchen sets and other supplies. More of the agency's supplies are continuing to arrive in Pakistan on various airlifts, including a 103-flight joint NATO/UNHCR airlift from Turkey. Other UNHCR airlifts have brought in supplies from the agency's warehouses in Jordan, Dubai and Denmark.

Pakistan Earthquake: Major push to Bring in Aid before Winter

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern AleppoPlay video

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern Aleppo

An agreement between the Syrian Government and the opposition allows UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged city of Aleppo.
Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.Play video

Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.

In Tanauan, one of the coastal areas worst hit by Typhoon Haiyun, people are being given tents and assistance while they start rebuilding their homes and lives.
Turkey: Supporting Syrian RefugeesPlay video

Turkey: Supporting Syrian Refugees

As the savings of Syrian refugees living in urban areas dwindle, soup kitchens provide much needed food assistance.