Update on IDP operations in north-west Pakistan

Briefing Notes, 6 November 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 November 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is stepping up assistance to people displaced by military operations in South Waziristan, Pakistan, and will shortly distribute tents to families staying with host communities in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). We will distribute some 35,000 tents (worth US$6 million) pending the final number of confirmed registered families. The aid will allow the displaced people to pitch tents in the grounds of households which are hosting them, and alleviate overcrowding. Tents are on their way from our local stockpiles to Dera Ismail Khan, and distribution will begin in the coming days.

Since September, UNHCR has been distributing relief items such as kitchen sets, jerry cans, quilts, sleeping mats to displaced people from South Waziristan. Some 24,000 families (about 175,000 people) have been assisted so far. Security constraints have lead to some intermittent disruptions to aid efforts, but distribution is continuing through our local partners.

UNHCR is also supporting the registration of displaced people from South Waziristan which is being carried out by the provincial Social Welfare Department, with help from our local NGO partner. Some 350,000 people, comprising almost 48,000 families, have now been registered in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank, though only about 175,000 people (or 24,000 families) have yet been verified by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). The verification process is ongoing but, at this stage, early indications suggest about 17% of families could be ineligible due to multiple registrations. A further 10% are not verified due to problems with their national ID cards, and another 2% are deemed not from areas affected by the military operations.

However, it is important that people who are not verified because they don't have their ID cards or are deemed not from an affected area have the opportunity to seek redress, so that genuinely displaced people don't fall through the cracks. Grievance desks are being set up at the registration centres to address this issue.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, an estimated one million people from previous waves of displacement out of Bajaur, Mohmand, Swat, remain displaced and in need of ongoing humanitarian assistance. This includes some 88,000 people in 10 camps in NWFP, for whom UNHCR is currently preparing a package of extra relief supplies for winter. Also, existing tents will be replaced with all-weather tents to provide extra insulation. Jalozai camp, in Nowshera, hosts the largest number of people (61,000) including some 27,000 people from Bajaur and Bara (Khyber agency) who have been registered in the camp since last month. The group includes a mix of people who recently fled renewed fighting in Bajaur and Bara, alongside those who had fled earlier and stayed with host families. This latter group had recently sought refuge in the camp as their resources became depleted.

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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

Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Helping the HostsPlay video

Pakistan: Helping the Hosts

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Balochistan province have access to schools and basic services, but the cost is not easy to bear.
Pakistan: Pushed to SafetyPlay video

Pakistan: Pushed to Safety

Thousands are forced to flee the fighting in Pakistan's Khyber Agency on the border with Afghanistan.