UNHCR steps up assistance to Pakistan flood victims

Briefing Notes, 20 September 2011

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 20 September 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR teams are distributing tents and other emergency aid to families displaced by severe flooding in Pakistan. More than five million people have been affected by this year's floods and government estimates put the number of families in urgent need of emergency shelter at over 200,000.

In southern Sindh province, which has been particularly hard hit, UNHCR has delivered 2,000 tents and 2,000 kits containing jerry cans, blankets and sleeping mats as well as 4,000 plastic sheets to be used for basic shelter. Many of the families displaced by the floods continue to live in makeshift shelters.

The distribution of the emergency supplies has so far focused on the southernmost districts of Badin and Thatta, with 1,000 tents, 1,000 non-food kits and 2,000 plastic sheets going to each location.

Eight thousand more tents, as well as non-food kits and plastic sheets are currently being trucked from UNHCR's warehouse in Peshawar in north-western Pakistan. The journey can take several days. The supplies are headed to the districts of Sanghar, Mirpur Khas, Tando Allah Yar and Tando Muhammad Khan in Sindh. UNHCR field staff describe these areas as being under water.

In Badin and Thatta UNHCR has been working with its partner agency the National Rural Support Program (NRSP), a Pakistani aid group, which is delivering the items and establishing small tent villages of less than 100 families. The scarcity of dry land on which to pitch the tents remains a challenge. Families our staff have spoken to say they prefer to stay near their livestock. Since Sunday about 1,000 tents and non-food kits have been distributed.

On behalf of the Protection Thematic Working Group, UNHCR recently led a rapid protection assessment in Sindh province. Focus group discussions were conducted with nearly 6,000 women, men, girls and boys, as well with community leaders and local authorities. A similar assessment will start this week in Balochistan.

The assessment report for Sindh reveals difficulties in accessing assistance faced by vulnerable groups such as female-headed households, disabled persons and minorities. There are also problems of child/family separation, missing family members, loss of civil documentation, such as national identity cards, which may hinder access to some types of assistance. The findings also reveal a rise in and exacerbation of existing protection problems such as domestic violence, child labour and exploitation.