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

News Stories, 10 December 2010

© UNHCR/R.Ali
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

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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 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.

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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

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