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Pakistan: South Waziristan update

Briefing notes

Pakistan: South Waziristan update

20 October 2009

Pakistani civilians continue to flee South Waziristan following the start of military operations against insurgents over the weekend. UNHCR is supporting the registration of new arrivals in neighbouring Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of the North West Frontier Province where some 32,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) - comprising almost 4,500 families - have been registered by local authorities since 13 October. They join more than 80,000 people (11,000 families) who had fled South Waziristan since May this year, bringing the total number of registered displaced to more than 112,000 people.

Working through local partners, UNHCR has been distributing relief items such as kitchen sets, blankets, sleeping mats and jerry cans to registered IDPs. The distribution will resume tomorrow (Wednesday). So far, the IDPs have been accommodated by the host families. Generally, this has been the trend in the north-west part of Pakistan. However, the government has informed UNHCR they are considering the establishment of camps and we stand ready to assist in providing all-weather tents and site preparation if required. We understand various sites are being explored by the government.

Humanitarian access to people in need remains the key challenge for humanitarian agencies in this operation given the volatile security environment in the displacement areas. In addition to the aid given to individual families, assistance will need to be extended to hospitals, schools and other public facilities that may come under strain with large influxes of people.

Elsewhere in north-west Pakistan, some 3,600 people (600 families) recently displaced by the conflict in Bajaur agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) continue to seek shelter in Lower Dir. Work is underway to pitch the 500 UNHCR tents that have been sent to the Wali Kandow camp in the same district. The remaining people are to be sheltered at the Khungi Shah camp, recently vacated by displaced people who have returned to their homes. The newly displaced join more than 58,000 Bajauris (8,300 families) residing in various camps in the North West Frontier Province having fled several waves of conflict since August 2008. Some IDPs still reside in host communities and UNHCR is conducting a re-screening exercise to better understand the size of the remaining displaced population in the area.