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PAKISTAN: Aid workers bracing for possible new IDP influx

ISLAMABAD, 26 January 2010 (IRIN) - Aid agencies are preparing for an influx of a possible further 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northwestern Pakistan in 2010, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other agencies.

Manuel Bessler, head of OCHA in Pakistan, told IRIN: “The moment we have the 'Green Light' from the government we will launch the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2010, which will help us to coordinate our humanitarian efforts and raise the necessary funds to finance our activities.”

He added: “The humanitarian community operating in Pakistan is well prepared to address the needs of the displaced and other vulnerable people.”

Muhammad Arshad, emergency programme manager at CARE International in Pakistan, told IRIN: “According to projections from international agencies, more displacements are possible. These are most likely to come from tribal areas, but it is not inconceivable that they could also take place from Malakand Division [comprising Dir, Swat, Chitral and Malakand districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP)] again, because a military operation continues there, though this is less likely.”

He said CARE would try to help IDPs, “at least in the areas of health and education” where it was currently focusing its activities. CARE was also working to expand its activities into the agricultural sector and other areas to promote livelihoods, he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also running various projects for IDPs. “We will continue this and make necessary adaptations if there is a new influx,” ICRC’s Sitara Jabeen told IRIN.

According to a 21 December OCHA map (inset), as many as 150,000 new IDPs could pour out of the tribal areas lying along the Afghan-Pakistani border

"As military operations continue in various areas of the northwest, there could well be new displacements in 2010 from the tribal areas, though we do not expect anything on the scale we saw from the Malakand area in May 2009,"Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency, explained.

The summer of 2009 saw the displacement of 2.3 million people at the peak of the fighting. While most of these IDPs have returned, a large number remain in camps or with host families.

Over one million still displaced

“Around 1.1 million individuals are still displaced. Around 113,500 of these are still living in camps and 97,000 are at Jalozai [in Nowshera],” Billi Bierling, OCHA public information officer, told IRIN.

The rest are staying with host families - 360,000 of them in Mardan District and 200,000 in Tank District in NWFP.

“We expect the IDPs from South Waziristan to start returning home by March,” Lt-Gen Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of the Pakistan Army’s Special Support Group, told the media recently. He said the “displacement crisis will be over soon.”

However, some of those still displaced say they are unable to return. “Our home was badly damaged. It can be repaired but I spent all our savings on supporting my family after we left home in June last year and have none left over to re-build,” said Azamullah Jan, from Swat, who is still based at the Jalala Camp in Mardan.

“Times are constantly getting harder for us as there is less and less help from the government or international agencies,” he said, describing winter at the camp as “especially bleak” because “the tents offer no protection against the cold and it is freezing at night.”


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs


Copyright © IRIN 2010
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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