Pakistan earthquake: stable situation in relief camps
Unseasonably warm temperatures in Pakistan's quake-hit north has resulted in a stable situation in the relief camps, with only small numbers of people trickling down to the camps because of unpredictable weather in the mountains. Meira camp in North West Frontier Province, NWFP, continues to receive small groups of new arrivals from the Allai Valley - 75 families in the last week - while Namanpura camp in Bagh has just received four families from Behdi.
A new cold front is expected this weekend, but we feel equipped to cope with the expected cold snap after distributing thousands of stoves, blankets, plastic sheets and mattresses for winterization in relief camps. Kerosene distribution for the stoves and heaters is continuing.
As lead agency for camp management, UNHCR is now supporting the Pakistan authorities in some 160 relief camps hosting more than 140,000 quake survivors. While the worst-case scenario of a harsh winter has yet to materialize, our work is far from over. Together with partner agencies, we continue to improve living conditions in camps by building communal kitchens and latrines and improving water supply. People living in congested spontaneous camps in Bagh and Muzaffarabad are being relocated to other camps like Namanpura and Chandi Bandi.
Our community services and mobilization teams are encouraging parents to send their children to camp schools. In Muzaffarabad, the numbers of schools and students have increased as a result of psycho-social counselling for traumatised children with a total of 6,984 children now attending classes in 51 camp schools.
As spring looks set to arrive early, the issue of return is increasingly on the minds of earthquake survivors. Some of Meira camp inhabitants have already returned to their homes in the lower Allai Valley. Others at the camp who visit their villages regularly say there is a need for more shelters, infrastructure and jobs in the valley.
Some families in Muzaffarabad's Bella Nur Shah camp have also returned home to Kalan Saydan near Barre. In the Siran valley north of Mansehra, we're exploring technical help for water supply and sanitation so people in the Bhogarmang camps can return and rebuild soon.
Inevitably, not everyone will be able to return home with the onset of spring. For those who cannot return immediately, UNHCR and partners like NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council) and RedR (Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief) are building the capacity of local authorities and NGOs through workshops on camp management. We are also supporting government bodies like the Camp Management Organisation in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the Regional Relief Commissioner in NWFP by providing them with office equipment and vehicles.