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New displacement in north-west Pakistan

Briefing notes

New displacement in north-west Pakistan

4 February 2011

Over the last few days, UNHCR has registered some 25,000 people displaced as a result of fresh military operations against insurgents in Mohmand agency of north-west Pakistan's tribal areas. Should the fighting intensify we estimate that up to 90,000 people (or 10,000 families) could be displaced by the end of February.

UNHCR has established two new camps - these are mainly accommodating people who have been fleeing the Sagi and Dawezai areas of Mohmand agency since military operations intensified on 27 January. Many of those arriving at the camps have little more than the clothes on their backs, and winter clothes and shelter are urgently required.

The two camps are the first to be established by UNHCR for conflict-displaced Pakistanis within the tribal areas since military operations against insurgents began in 2008. In previous waves of conflict people fled to settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, seeking refuge in and around Peshawar.

UNHCR has also deployed engineers, field and protection staff to Ghalanai, the headquarters of Mohmand agency, and helped authorities to set up camps at Nahqi and Danish Kol to the north and north-east of Ghalani. Each registered family receives a tent and other relief supplies (typically, sleeping mats, blankets, and kitchen utensils, and warm clothes for children). People are also receiving hot meals and we are in discussion with WFP regarding the provision of food rations.

While UNHCR has set up these camps within Mohmand agency, we are also advocating that displaced people be allowed to move further afield to stay with relatives and friends in Peshawar or other settled areas. We are urging authorities to ensure displaced people have freedom of movement and we have deployed staff to monitor the situation.

We are also concerned at reports by people arriving at camps that some young and middle-aged men have had difficulty leaving the conflict zone and are urging authorities to ensure that any screening activities to identify militants do not prevent civilians from leaving the area for safety.

Successive waves of conflict in Pakistan's tribal areas mean that today there are around a million people displaced, including almost 140,000 people from Mohmand agency. Of these, most live among host communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Some 147,000 live in three camps in the province with most (138,000) at the Jalozai camp, Nowshera

Since last September around 8,500 people have returned to South Waziristan, while some 162,000 people have returned to Orakzai agency since the start of 2010.