With most Pakistan quake survivors now home, UN hands tasks to local authorities

31 August 2006

Now that hundreds of thousands of survivors of last October’s deadly earthquake in Pakistan have returned home from temporary camps, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today closed the offices in the region, handing over full responsibility for managing remaining relief camps to local authorities on schedule.

Now that hundreds of thousands of survivors of last October’s deadly earthquake in Pakistan have returned home from temporary camps, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today closed the offices in the region, handing over full responsibility for managing remaining relief camps to local authorities on schedule.

“This was part of an overall framework for the transition of camp management responsibilities,” said Kilian Kleinschmidt, UNHCR's senior emergency coordinator. “From the outset, we had made it clear that our involvement would be until the end of the winter and that we would phase out as of September 1, 2006 in a responsible, transparent and professional manner.”

The offices were located in Mansehra in North West Frontier Province and in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. UNHCR will continue to provide advice to local authorities until the end of the year.

Since March, more than 140,000 quake survivors have left relief camps for home. About 36,000 people remain in 44 camps. In the months leading up to the handover, UNHCR upgraded services in the remaining camps and made provisions to ensure that basic services would continue.

While the refugee agency normally does not get involved in natural disasters, the enormous scale of the quake, as well as the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, represented exceptional cases.

The 8 October earthquake in the mountainous Kashmir region left more than 70,000 people dead and millions homeless. Immediately after the quake, UNHCR rushed thousands of tonnes of supplies from its emergency relief stockpiles to survivors.

At the height of the emergency operation, UNHCR had some 150 staff in Pakistan. It supported the local government in running 170 temporary relief camps and coordinated with UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to ensure basic services in the camps.

“You can measure the success of our activities by what was averted. There were no epidemics in the camps and few casualties over the course of winter,” Mr. Kleinschmidt observed.

 

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