Camps straining under weight of massive Pakistani displacement – UN agency

5 June 2009

The lifting of a curfew for several hours this morning in the conflict zone of the Swat region of Pakistan is expected to release an estimated 20,000 people into already overcrowded and under-funded camps in the neighbouring province, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is extending two camps in the

North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that it set up earlier this week in a bid to accommodate today’s wave of internally displaced persons (IDPs) escaping the fighting between government forces and militants in Swat.

Also in NWFP today, a bomb explosion in a mosque in the Upper Dir district reportedly killed over 30 people, drawing condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“He reiterates his rejection of such indiscriminate and reprehensible acts of violence and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Pakistan,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

More than 260,000 of the 2.6 million IDPs already seeking refuge in NWFP are sheltered in 21 camps across the region, including over 5,000 who fled to the two new camps – Sugar Mill camp in Charssada district and the Larama camp in Peshwar – in a break in the curfew over the weekend.

“In Larama more than 1,600 people have been registered since the camp opened on Tuesday,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

“They have received relief items from UNHCR including mats, jerry cans and kitchen sets,” added Mr. Redmond. “Our local partner, the Society for Social Development (SSD), is continuing to level new ground today so we can pitch more tents for possible additional arrivals.”

He said that camps in Mardan have reached full capacity, and the newly displaced are being directed to camps in Swabi, Charsadda and Peshawar, adding that UNHCR is continuing work to expand existing camps in anticipation of new arrivals, and improve conditions while it looks for new sites.

“UNHCR still needs some $67 million out of a total appeal of $105 million for its operation helping displaced persons in Pakistan until the end of the year,” said Mr. Redmond, stressing that this amount was calculated on the assumption there would be 1.5 million IDPs, a figure which is close to doubling.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has paid tribute to contributors for enabling a swift response to the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan.

“The generous support from countries around the world has allowed us to rapidly move life-saving food assistance to 2.6 million people who have fled conflict in the Swat region of Pakistan,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, adding that the needs of the people affected by the conflict were likely to remain high for the foreseeable future.

Prior to the recent crisis, which started on 2 May, WFP was already feeding more than 6 million people in Pakistan.


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