Shelter being airlifted to remote areas of Pakistan's Swat ahead of winter

Briefing Notes, 21 September 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 September 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is this week airlifting shelter supplies to the remote and high altitude area of Utror in northwest Pakistan's Kalam Tehsil. The aim is to get warm shelter to flood victims in Upper Swat before winter. The first snows in this area are expected in about a month.

The airlift of shelter kits began on Sunday. The remote region has been virtually cut off since flash floods destroyed homes, roads and bridges in late July. In Utror village 300 families lost their homes. The shelter kits provide a large warm room for winter, allowing families to rebuild. More than 80 have been airlifted in so far, and training in construction is being provided through our NGO partner and locally-hired engineers. Elsewhere in Swat we have already provided shelters to 9,600 families whose homes were destroyed in last year's conflict, while in Khyber Pakhtunkwa we are working with the Norwegian Refugee Council to get shelters to flood victims in Charsadda and Nowshera districts.

Separately, starting this week around a million Afghan refugee children who were born in Pakistan will be receiving birth certificates as the government begins issuing new registration cards to the country's 1.7 million Afghan refugees. UNHCR is supporting Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority to issue the birth certificates alongside new Proof of Registration cards, which will be valid until the end of December 2012.

The registration card is an important identity document for Afghan refugees, proving their legal right of stay in Pakistan and providing protection against detention and deportation. The birth certificates will help those refugees born in Pakistan access services like health and education, and prevent statelessness and early marriage. Also recognized by the Afghan government, the birth certificates can help returning refugees re-establish themselves after voluntary repatriation.

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Shelter

One of the first things that people need after being forced to flee their homes, whether they be refugees or internally displaced, is some kind of a roof over their head.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

The port city of Aden in southern Yemen has long been a destination for refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants after making the dangerous sea crossing from the Horn of Africa. Since May 2011, Aden also has been providing shelter to tens of thousands of Yemenis fleeing fighting between government forces and armed groups in neighbouring Abyan governorate.

Most of the 157,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Abyan have found shelter with friends and relatives, but some 20,000 have been staying in dozens of public schools and eight vacant public buildings. Conditions are crowded with several families living together in a single classroom.

Many IDPs expected their displacement would not be for long. They wish to return home, but cannot do so due to the fighting. Moreover, some are fearful of reprisals if they return to areas where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in bombings.

UNHCR has provided emergency assistance, including blankets, plastic sheeting and wood stoves, to almost 70,000 IDPs from Abyan. Earlier this year, UNHCR rehabilitated two buildings, providing shelter for 2,000 people and allowing 3,000 children, IDPs and locals, to resume schooling in proper classrooms. UNHCR is advocating with the authorities for the conversion of additional public buildings into transitional shelters for the thousands of IDPs still living in schools.

Photographer Pepe Rubio Larrauri travelled to Aden in March 2012 to document the day-to-day lives of the displaced.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

More than 1.5 million people flee their homes in North-West Pakistan.

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.

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

Pakistani civilians continue to stream out of the region around the Swat Valley to find shelter in Mardana

More than 2 million people, according to local authorities, have been forced from their homes following Pakistani efforts to drive militants out of the region around north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley. Some 200,000 are living in camps set up by the Pakistani government and supplied by UNHCR and other agencies. The remainder are staying in schools or other communal buildings or being hosted by families. The heat is intense, reaching 45 degrees Celsius, and many of the displaced are suffering from heat-related infections and water-borne illnesses, although conditions are improving. UNHCR is providing tents, cooking sets, plastic sheeting and jerry cans, among other aid items. Award-winning photographer Alixandra Fazzina has spent the last two weeks documenting the plight of the internally displaced, from their arrival in safe areas, to the camps, schools and homes in which they now find themselves.

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

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