With many health centres in north-western Pakistan having been destroyed or looted during recent clashes between Government forces and militants, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today expressed apprehension about supporting the 1.5 million uprooted people returning to their homes.
“We are still very much concerned about the possibility of being able to supply [returnees] with the necessary support in health,” Eric Laroche, WHO Assistant Director-General, said.
He expressed relief that there have been no outbreaks of epidemics, attributing this to the early warning system in place on the ground.
“The problem now is that these people are going back home and we need to reinstitute these types of surveillance systems and early warning systems in these areas of return,” Dr. Laroche said, adding that this will be a “major challenge.”
WHO, he said, needs $35 million to respond to the health crisis and recovery in northwest Pakistan.
According to the Pakistani Government, almost 90 per cent of the 1.1 million people in the Swat district – which has an overall population of 1.7 million – who were driven out by fighting have since returned to their homes.
A UN inter-agency mission lead by Martin Mogwanja, the world body’s Humanitarian Coordinator, found that public sector infrastructure and facilities such as telecommunications and electricity are functional, but dilapidated.
Food assistance is also crucial during the early recovery phase, the team said. Currently, there are four food distribution hubs in place, with every registered household receiving a monthly ration.
In Swat, nearly 90 per cent of crops from the last harvest have been lost, it added.
To assist the Government and the international community to respond to needs in the wake of the country’s displacement crisis, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week announced the appointment of veteran French diplomat Jean-Maurice Ripert as his Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan.
Mr. Ripert, who is currently France’s Ambassador to the UN, will be tasked with promoting a “strategic, coherent and comprehensive approach to supporting the humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction needs of crisis-affected areas” in concert with the Pakistani Government and international partners.