UN: 1 June 2009 – The United Nations said today that the number of people displaced by the conflict in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province has risen above 2.5 million, and a shortage of funds could cut relief services there.
UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York that the new figure, an increase of about 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) over last week’s estimate, was based on numbers collected by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Pakistani authorities, which are registering people both inside and outside camps.
More than two million people have been driven from their homes by clashes between the Government and militants in the past month, in addition to the 400,000 already displaced in fighting last year.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a briefing to the General Assembly today, emphasized the need for greater support to scale up the response of the international community and the Pakistani Government to the situation.
“The human suffering is immense,” he said.
The UN and its partners launched an appeal for $543 million on 22 May, of which just over one-fifth has been funded to date. “If we do not get the rest of the funds, we will have to start cutting services,” the Secretary-General warned, adding that there is a risk of a destabilizing secondary crisis.
According to media reports, the Pakistani army has stepped up its offensive in the Swat Valley and other areas of the North West Frontier Province as part of its expanded campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaida.
Ms. Montas said that over the past week, five spontaneous camps have been closed with people moving into established camps.
“The existence of numerous spontaneous camps continues to be matter of concern as they impede registration procedures for IDPs,” she said. “They also restrict their ability to receive relief supplies, services and information on long-term support.”
Rising temperatures are making it more difficult for families to remain in tents, Ms. Montas added. To address the problem, UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) are attempting to provide facilities such as shaded areas, water points and toilets for IDPs living outside camps.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), for its part, has begun psycho-social support for women in camps of four districts – Lower Dir, Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda – through individual counseling and focus group discussions. The agency is also conducting general health, hygiene awareness and reproductive health sessions, Ms. Montas said.
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting 29 child-friendly spaces, engaging children in different learning, creative and recreational activities in 13 IDP camps, she said.