The United Nations refugee agency is rushing hundreds of tents to supplement Government relief efforts in north-west Pakistan, where some 40,000 people have fled an intensification of military operations over the last few weeks.
“The difficult security situation in Hangu district hampers our access to the site,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing in Geneva today, referring to the region hosting the new exodus from the army’s offensive against rebels in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Local authorities estimate up to 10,000 families – some 150,000 people – could be displaced if the current fighting continues in the Orakzai Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The newly displaced are in addition to the 280,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled earlier operations and now live in rented rooms and with host families further south in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Last month UNHCR cited overall relief distribution figures to report that up to 900,000 IDPs from FATA and NWFP might be staying with host communities.
Mr. Mahecic said the new IDPs were mainly staying with extended family and kin networks or being hosted by local families, as is the pattern in this part of Pakistan, but local authorities had set up a camp with the capacity to host 300 families for those without other options. About 50 families are already there and UNHCR has sent 100 all-weather tents to reinforce Government supplies, as well as family kits with sleeping mats, blankets, quilts, kitchen sets and jerry-cans.
“The difficult security situation in Hangu district hampers our access to the site, but UNHCR is working through local partners to provide assistance,” Mr. Mahecic added, noting that the agency’s non-governmental organization (NGO) partner Pak-CDP (Pakistan – Community Development Programme) is helping with technical improvements and assessing sites for additional camps to accommodate a further 1,500 families.
“We are sending an additional 300 tents to reinforce supplies at the camp and registration of the displaced people is expected to begin on Sunday by the provincial Department of Social Welfare and supported by UNHCR. Distribution of relief supplies to people staying in host communities will begin shortly.”
There are reports that IDPs from Orakzai have also fled to Kohat district, though there are as yet no firm figures. “Tomorrow we will begin distributing family kits of relief supplies like blankets, sleeping mats and jerry cans to those people registered in Kohat,” Mr. Mahecic said.
In Dera Ismail Khan and Tank UNHCR has distributed more than 32,000 tents to IDPs registered by Pakistani authorities, together with almost 53,000 family kits.