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UNHCR distributes winter aid to the displaced in north-west Pakistan

News Stories, 10 December 2010

Two men carry away firewood distributed by UNHCR in Jalozai camp to help people survive the winter.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, December 10 (UNHCR) Nagina and her family put up with the scorching heat in a cramped tent for more than three months after floodwaters destroyed or damaged their homes in north-west Pakistan.

Now, the weather has turned and they can only look forward to months of freezing cold. That's why the 40-year-old mother is relieved and grateful to have received a package of UNHCR aid to help her family survive the winter.

"We were one of the first families to receive a UNHCR winter kit," she told UNHCR visitors during a visit to Koroona Camp, a village on the edge of Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. UNHCR has also been helping the people of Korooma and other flood-affected villages to build shelters on the sites of their former homes.

The refugee agency began its winterization operation in the province late last month and will be distributing quilts, blankets and sleeping mats to some 380,000 people (59,000 families) displaced by conflict or July's floods, including some 130,000 Afghan refugees (20,200 families). UNHCR is also handing out firewood.

Nagina said she was initially happy when the weather started to get cooler, "but then our two sons and three daughters could not sleep at night because of the cold." Thanks to the aid from UNHCR, including the construction of extra accommodation, the family are now content. "The brand new quilts keep us really warm and we sleep tight at night," she said with a big smile.

"UNHCR and its partners are reaching out to all those in need of assistance, especially in the northern parts of the province," said Ahmed Warsame, head of the UNHCR sub-office in the province.

The organization is distributing six blankets, four quilts and four sleeping mats as well as an additional plastic sheet to each of 14,250 vulnerable families in the province's Swat, Shangla and Kohistan districts.

Shamsher Khan, from the Bajaur region, is spending his third winter in Jalozai, the largest camp for internally displaced people in the country. "During winter, the use of firewood increases and at times it is not available or is too expensive," he explained, adding that getting firewood from UNHCR was "a great relief for us."

For humanitarian agencies like UNHCR, the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remains complex due to the fluid security situation. More than 1 million people, mainly from the tribal belt of Pakistan, remain displaced by waves of conflict between the armed forces and militants since August 2008. Most are living with host communities or in rented accommodation, but Jalozai stills hosts almost 100,000 people.

UNHCR plans to help around 800,000 people (123,000 families) under its winterization programme across Pakistan. This includes aid given to people in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan provinces. This year, UNHCR is also building 40,000 shelters for those who lost their homes in the floods.

By Rabia Ali in Peshawar, Pakistan




UNHCR country pages

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: Fleeing to Safety

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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.

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

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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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