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UNHCR emergency airlift on its way to Pakistan

Briefing notes

UNHCR emergency airlift on its way to Pakistan

12 May 2009

A Boeing 747 cargo plane with 120 tonnes of UNHCR relief supplies for people fleeing fighting in Pakistan's north-west left Dubai this morning and is due to touch down in Islamabad at 3:15 p.m. local time (11:15 a.m. Geneva time).

The UNHCR-chartered plane is carrying 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 from our central stockpiles in Dubai. The new supplies will be loaded onto seven trucks and taken immediately to UNHCR's warehouse in Peshawar, and then distributed to various sites hosting displaced people in North West Frontier Province.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has facilitated today's emergency flight, as well as the provision of an additional 10,000 tents to UNHCR, for the emergency operation.

The airlifted consignment will bolster the thousands of relief supplies such as tents, kitchen sets, jerry cans, sleeping mats and blankets, either locally procured or from our existing stockpiles in Pakistan, which UNHCR is currently distributing alongside our non-government partners and local authorities, as part of a joint UN response.

As of late yesterday, a total of 501,496 displaced people from the new influx have now been formally registered by authorities, with UNHCR's help, since May 2. Of these new arrivals, 72,707 people are staying in camps, and 428,789 people are staying with relatives, friends or host communities - including locals who have opened their doors to receive people fleeing the fighting.

People are being registered in camps and in 38 registration points that have now been established by the Directorate of Social Welfare with UNHCR's help, in Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda, Kohat and Peshawar. More are being set up daily.

In Mardan, Sheikh Yasin, Sheikh Shahzad and Jalala camps are now full and people are being directed to other camps where there is room, such as Jalozai in Nowshera, or the soon to be opened Shah Mansoor site in Swabi. UNHCR site planners are assessing the suitability of land for additional camps, and working to improve conditions and capacity in existing ones.

Today, UNHCR field teams are also assessing conditions in the hundreds of spontaneous settlements that have sprung up in the districts of Mardan and Swabi - in schools, colleges, flour mills, stadiums, parks, private land and other sites - to identify the most urgent needs.

High Commissioner António Guterres says the speed and scale of this crisis is posing huge challenges for the government and the humanitarian community. More resources are urgently needed and UNHCR is calling for international solidarity to help Pakistanis uprooted in this crisis. As the High Commissioner notes, Pakistanis in this particular region have for decades been extremely generous to millions of Afghan refugees and now that they themselves are uprooted, deserve international help.

As part of a joint UN response, UNHCR is providing shelter and other relief supplies to the latest influx of displaced people from Swat, Buner and Lower Dir. UNHCR is also working with its local partner, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), assisting the local authorities to register people, and has set up reception centres on the main routes out of the conflict zones into the safer areas in Mardan and Swabi. These reception centres, run by our local partner the Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP), are providing information and transport to camps and other areas to those who need it. Food and water are also being provided by individuals and local organisations.