Pakistan’s military offensive against Taliban militants in the north of the country has displaced more than 400,000 people and the number continues to rise, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
According to the latest Pakistani Government registration figures, 435,429 people, including some 183,000 children, have fled from combat zones in North Waziristan agency since mid-June.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that most of the families have sought refuge in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, with reports of families also now arriving in Punjab and Balochistan. Almost all the internally displaced people are being hosted by local communities.
“The Government of Pakistan and our UN and humanitarian community partners expect up to half a million people could be displaced by the current military operations,” UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva.
This would bring the total number of displaced people from the tribal regions of the country to 1.5 million – including 930,000 uprooted in various waves since 2009.
UN officials met this week with Pakistani authorities and offered support for humanitarian operations in the area of protection and registration, as well as the provision of emergency relief items. The Government had made a formal request to the UN for assistance.
Mr. McNorton said a key challenge for aid agencies is access to the areas where the displaced are arriving.
“The UN and partners have called for full and unimpeded access to the affected populations to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid,” he stated.
Last week, UNHCR reported it was helping authorities in neighbouring Afghanistan to register and assist thousands of people who fled the fighting in Pakistan’s tribal regions.