Pakistan: UN agency refutes media claims of large-scale return of displaced

26 June 2009

Despite local media reports of widespread returns of some of the 2 million people uprooted by the conflict between Government forces and militants in north-west Pakistan, the United Nations refugee agency today said that there was no large-scale movement out of the makeshift camps housing the displaced.

Most displaced families in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) have not visited their place of origin and those that did, returned on a “go and see basis” to harvest crops, secure cattle or check on homes, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.

A UNHCR rapid survey of over 4,000 displaced persons sheltering in a camp in Swabi District found that some internally displaced persons (IDPs) had gone back to help bring other family members to the Yar Hussain camp, especially the elderly who were left behind because they could not move quickly enough, said Mr. Spindler.

The displaced said they would not return without ‘improvements in security conditions’ and ‘restored peace,’ said Mr. Spindler, noting that the destruction of houses and infrastructure, such as electricity supply, as well as concerns over education and the provision of food were also preventing returns.

In the meantime, an average of 1,800 IDPs a day continue to flow into the renowned Jalozai camp, in Nowshera district, which is being expanded as other camps in the NWFP are full, said UNHCR.

The new arrivals include people who were previously staying with host families and those referred on from camps which are full.

“In all the organized camps, we are continuing to improve conditions, building shade structures over tents to relieve the heat and privacy walls around groups of tents. We are also improving infrastructure like lighting and fencing,” said Mr. Spindler.

In preparations for monsoon season in mid-July, UNHCR is reinforcing drainage systems, and many people are protecting their family tent by building up low brick walls or draining canals, he added.

Through humanitarian hubs run by the World Food Programme (WFP) and with help from the Sarahd Rural Support Programme (SRSP), UNHCR has distributed relief aid – including mats, plastic sheets, jerry cans and kitchen sets – to 24,700 people staying with host families and in schools in Charsadda, Nowshera and Mardan districts.

WFP reported that it has set up banks for food and relief items in five major cities with the support of the corporations TNT, Agility and Pakistan International Airlines.

In Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi, WFP has established two relief bank warehouses and another two are planned for Islamabad/Rawalpindi and Lahore.

“Setting up these relief banks provide all Pakistani individuals, families and businesses with a prompt and reliable means to donate food and relief goods for the many families and people who have been displaced by the fighting in NWFP,” said WFP Pakistan Country Representative Wolfgang Herbinger.

 

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Greater donor help needed to assist displaced Pakistanis – UN envoy

A top United Nations humanitarian envoy wrapped up a two-day visit to north-west Pakistan today, calling on donors to step up their assistance to help the millions of people who have been uprooted from their homes by fighting between Government forces and militants.