Extremely concerned at the plight of some 70,000 Afghan refugees living in an insecure, makeshift site in Pakistan, the United Nations has begun providing them with temporary emergency assistance pending a more permanent decision on their relocation.
"Regardless of their ultimate fate, we cannot let this helpless population live without the basic support they need and deserve," Onder Yucer, the UN Resident Coordinator for Pakistan, said today, referring to the Afghans camped at a site called Jalozai in the country's North West Frontier Province.
While various UN agencies are assisting the refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is serving as the focal point of aid operations. UNHCR has increased its efforts to improve conditions at Jalozai, in part by upgrading a neighbouring hospital and providing supplies to local health centres.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food assistance to some 12,000 families at the site. "For the first time at Jalozai, people will not be afraid of going hungry tomorrow and the days after," said WFP's Acting Country Director for Pakistan, Jeff Taft-Dick.
Focusing its attention on the very young, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has provided measles vaccines in a bid to prevent another outbreak of the disease, which spread through the camp in January. UNICEF has also provided 30,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts and 5,000 bottles of intravenous infusion used to prevent dehydration and stroke.
Keen to ensure that appropriate reproductive health services are available to women in the camp, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing equipment and care through local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is setting up a task force in collaboration with the provincial authorities to monitor overall efforts by the UN, NGOs and the national government. The task force will also aim to anticipate and prevent the outbreak of epidemics in the area.