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UNHCR chief visits displaced Pakistanis, calls for massive aid

Briefing notes

UNHCR chief visits displaced Pakistanis, calls for massive aid

15 May 2009

In a visit to UNHCR-supported displacement camps, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called Thursday for a massive international aid effort for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis recently uprooted by fighting in the country's north-west.

The High Commissioner expressed surprise at the speed with which the displacement was unfolding. Since 2 May, over 987,000 people have been officially registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs). This includes 80,000 staying in camps and 907,000 staying with host families or in rented accommodation. Every hour thousands of new IDPs are arriving at the registration sites to be registered. The numbers are in addition to more than 550,000 registered displaced who fled their homes after earlier fighting in the north-west since last August.

High Commissioner Guterres noted that if massive support is not mobilized immediately, the internal displacement crisis in Pakistan could have enormous destabilizing impact on the affected populations. He said that he has no doubt that hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed for the overall relief effort to help the internally displaced and affected communities in Pakistan.

Yesterday, Guterres met with Pakistan's Minister for States and Frontier Regions Najmuddin Khan and with Frida Wazir of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees. Today, the High Commissioner is meeting with senior government officials and with representatives of donor countries in Islamabad.

During his visit to Yar Hussain camp in the Swabi District of North West Frontier Province yesterday, Guterres spoke with many refugee families, witnessed new arrivals being registered and met Pakistani humanitarian workers.

UNHCR has been fast to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in north-west Pakistan. We already had a major presence in Pakistan after decades of helping Afghan refugees, and we started distributing aid from stocks in the country as soon as the dimensions of the current crisis became clear. We have helped establish new camps for the displaced as well as reception and registration centres.

Hundreds of spontaneous settlements have sprung up in schools, colleges, flour mills, stadiums, parks, private land and other sites. UNHCR has visited many of these to assess needs.

On Tuesday, UNHCR airlifted 120 tonnes of additional relief supplies from its regional stockpile in Dubai. The chartered aircraft carried 10,000 mosquito nets, 14,000 plastic sheets for emergency shelters, 1,500 plastic rolls to build walls and privacy screens in camps, and two portable warehouses.