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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN prepares for new flood of Pakistani civilians fleeing fighting with militants

23 October 2009 – United Nations aid agencies and their partners in north-western Pakistan are preparing emergency relief, including food, water and health services, for up to 250,000 civilians fleeing an intensification of fighting between the Government and militants.

Some 155,000 people have already fled the conflict in the South Waziristan region, according to local government figures, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.

“The planning figure of the humanitarian community for IDPs (internally displaced persons) who could eventually leave South Waziristan is a total of 250,000 civilians,” OCHA said in its latest update on the situation.

“To respond to that probable caseload, preparations have been under way for some time now, and relief items are pre-positioned in the area,” it added. “The most urgent humanitarian needs include food, support to existing health facilities, water, sanitation and hygiene support, emergency shelter and education support.”

UN agencies and their humanitarian partner organisations have assisted the first wave of IDPs with emergency items, such as food, household and hygiene supplies, water, vaccination campaigns, as well as support in the registration process.

In a breakdown of IDPs, local authorities say some 19,000 registered displaced families from South Waziristan (about 139,400 individuals) are in the Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), including 7,900 families (58,000 people) who arrived in the last 10 days and 11,080 families (80,500 people) who fled in May and August.

Security concerns make humanitarian access to Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts a challenge, but UN agencies are continuing to deliver their assistance through local partners, OCHA said, noting that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) implementing partners are distributing non-food items in the first district.

The IDPs are currently living with host families or in rented accommodation. The authorities might consider camps in the future, and UNHCR and its partners stand ready to aid in setting these up and running them.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) also stands ready to help all newly displaced families, and 1,000 tons of food have been distributed in the two districts so far to families registered before 16 August. Local authorities have asked WFP to help the second wave of IDPs, too. Currently the agency has relief stocks and implementation capacities to meet the October requirements.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on 26 health facilities in Dera Ismail Khan staffed by 70 health workers to support delivery of essential services as well as epidemics/disease control.

To date, the agency has distributed in both districts 42 mini emergency health kits that can cover 252,000 people for two months, and six cholera kits for 600 interventions, and vaccines against snake venom and rabies. Two ambulances are on their way.

IDPs are also moving into Bannu in NWFP and Zhob district in Baluchistan, with 1,630 families (12,000 people) and 650 families (4,700 individuals) registered in the two districts respectively, according to local authorities.

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