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Pakistan displacement update

Briefing notes

Pakistan displacement update

26 May 2009 Also available in:

Pakistanis continue to leave the areas of conflict between government forces and militants in search of refuge in Mardan, Charsadda, Swabi and Nowshera districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Some 18,000 families - about 126,000 people - are registered on average every day in these districts.

According to provincial government authorities, the number of displaced people from the Swat, Lower Dir and Buner districts registered in a fast track process since 2 May has now reached over 2.38 million people. However, these figures are being cross-checked and verified in a second-stage process, and may change.

The federal government and provincial authorities are discussing the modalities for the registration and assistance to displaced people beyond NWFP.

Many people are still reportedly stranded in the conflict zones. The lifting of the curfew only lasts for some hours and the roads get quickly congested as people rush to flee. A bus ride from Mingora, Swat District, to Mardan town has tripled (from 2,000 rupees / $US24 to 6,000 rupees / $US74) according to people escaping the volatile area.

For those who have reached the safety of camps, UNHCR is working with government authorities to build separate shaded communal areas for men and women in Jalala, Sheikh Yaseen, Sheikh Shahzad and Yar Hussein camps to provide access to cool areas. In Sheikh Shazad, for instance, 14 communal shaded areas have been set up, half for men, the other half for women. In those sectors where electricity has already been installed, communal spaces have electric water coolers, and three other electric points for fans, lighting and recharging of electrical devices such as mobile phones. Installation of electricity in camps by local authorities is ongoing.

Working with our partner, the Communal Development Programme (CDP), UNHCR has started to distribute bricks to each family to build individual kitchen stoves in Yar Hussain, Jalala, Sheikh Yaseen, Sheikh Shazad and Jalozai camps. The stoves will allow the displaced people to cook their own meals with rations from the World Food Programme. Up to now, the government has provided people with cooked meals through private contractors.

At the same time, UNHCR continues to witness many acts of generosity from the Pakistani community towards their fellow citizens. In Jalozai camp, for example, which now hosts another 50,200 new displaced people since 2 May, a private donor has given food packages of wheat flour, sugar, spices, tea, pulses and flavoured syrup, to help some 2,400 people.

Others are bringing relief such as food, clothes and mattresses to the thousands of families staying in schools. One woman now resident in Islamabad but originally from Mardan, travels every weekend to her hometown to bring cash she collects from her friends in the capital to give to the displaced people staying in schools. She also brings clothes and tea.

UNHCR is also stepping up its assistance to people residing in schools in Mardan and Swabi districts. In the Mardan area, our teams have almost completed assessments of 448 schools, and distribution of relief items including jerry cans, buckets, kitchen sets, mattresses and blankets is already underway to 4,500 families, about 37,000 people.

Many displaced people are also staying with families, at relatives' or friends' houses or in rental accommodation. We are also planning to distribute assistance to those people in the near future.

On Saturday, UNHCR's relief supplies for its operation in north-west Pakistan were bolstered by a 36-tonne consignment of tents, plastic rolls, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap, generators, water tanks and purification equipment airlifted to Islamabad by the Italian Government and donated to UNHCR.

A Relief Bank set up by UNHCR in Nowshera has been receiving in-kind donations from private donors, ranging from sleeping mats to water coolers. Items are being distributed to the displaced people through our local partner the Sarhad Rural Support programme.

We are continuing to buy more supplies from within Pakistan and to ship items from our stockpiles around the world. However, UNHCR urgently needs funds to accelerate the purchase of relief supplies for its operation. On Friday, as part of a larger joint UN appeal, UNHCR called for another $84 million for its operation helping displaced people in north-west Pakistan until the end of 2009.