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UNHCR to assist some 250,000 flood victims in Pakistan


UNHCR to assist some 250,000 flood victims in Pakistan

The UN refugee agency is the first to intervene in a significant way in the fast-evolving humanitarian emergency.
2 August 2010
A young boy feels his way through flood waters using a walking stick.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, 2 August (UNHCR). As part of a United Nations coordinated response, UNHCR said on Monday that it intends to support some 250,000 of the most vulnerable among the flood-affected population in Pakistan. The country is experiencing the worst floods in its short history, with 1,100 dead and one million-plus affected, the government says.

UNHCR teams on Monday visited northwestern Pakistan to distribute relief supplies where more than 1.5 million people have been made homeless by torrential rains and flash floods.

Staff members met with families at a government-run school serving as a make-shift camp in Charsada district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"They were frightened," one UNHCR official recalls of the families he met. "They lost everything: their homes, their livelihood. These people were not prepared for this natural catastrophe which hit them suddenly and hit them hard."

Earlier, the UN Refugee Agency launched a separate flood response in the south western province of Balochistan in concert with other UN agencies , bringing relief to some 2000 of the worst affected families in Sibi and Naseerabad districts. Meanwhile, monsoon rains continued to fall on a wider area of the north western province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa,

"The challenge is daunting but our staff and partners have done a lot in support of the government efforts," said Mengesha Kebede, UNHCR country representative in Islamabad. "UNHCR has been the first to intervene in a significant way in this fast evolving humanitarian situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan."

On Friday, UNHCR completed distribution of 6,000 tents in Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar and Pabbi through the government departments. Overall, some 10,000 tents have now been distributed along with other relief supplies such as blankets, jerry cans and kitchen sets.

"UNHCR's main mandate is protecting refugees, but the organisation has always positively responded to the call for humanitarian assistance for the local population of Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan," noted Kebede.

The floods have also affected some 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have taken shelter in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan over the past three decades and an estimated 700,000 people dispaced by fighting in the Swat Valley and other areas last year.

By Rabia Ali in Peshawar and Qaisar Khan Afridi in Islamabad