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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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