The growing humanitarian crisis in North West Frontier Province, where United Nations agencies are ramping up aid to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a Government offensive against militants, was discussed today at a meeting in New York between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pakistani President Asif Zardari.
Mr. Ban voiced the UN`s concern for the protection of civilians and the grave problems being experienced by ordinary people as a result of recent developments, according to information released by his spokesperson.
In addition, Mr. Zardari reiterated his Government`s commitment to safeguard the interests and livelihood of the affected population.
They agreed on the need for increased UN assistance to alleviate the plight of those displaced from their homes by the fighting.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting Mr. Ban said he expected Mr. Zardari to take all necessary care to protect the civilian population. The United Nations is ready and will always stand by to provide the necessary assistance, humanitarian assistance. I have asked him to facilitate smooth delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of humanitarian workers.
Meanwhile, together with Government authorities, UN agencies in Pakistan are working to provide the affected families with basic necessities, such as food and nutrition assistance, shelter, water, sanitation facilities, primary health care and education.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing emergency food rations to around 650,000 people who have fled the conflict areas, including some 200,000 newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Lower Dir, Swat and Buner districts.
WFP has mobilized in-country stocks and is prepared to feed the growing population of internally displaced persons for the next two to three months. Assisting hungry families is our first priority, said the agency`s Pakistan Country Representative Wolfgang Herbinger.
The agency announced plans to double the amount of emergency food aid assistance reaching registered IDPs in camps as well as in host communities, who account for more than 80 per cent of all those displaced. In addition, WFP is setting up food distribution hubs in Mardan and Swabi districts, the main destination for the latest wave of IDPs.
We need the international donor community to quickly step forward with donations to avoid any interruptions in food distributions, " stressed Mr. Herbinger.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that a Boeing 747 carrying 120 tons of relief supplies left Dubai this morning en route for Islamabad.
The shipment includes some 10,000 mosquito nets, 14,000 plastic sheets for emergency shelters, 1,500 plastic rolls to build walls and privacy screens in camps, and two portable warehouses from UNHCR central stockpiles, which are headed for the agency`s depot in Peshawar to be distributed among various IDP camps in NWFP.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has facilitated the emergency flight, as well as provided some 10,000 tents to UNHCR in support of its relief efforts.
UNHCR reported that as of late Monday a total of 501,496 displaced people from the new influx have been formally registered since 2 May. More than 80 per cent of these IDPs are sheltering with relative, friends and host communities while 72,707 are taking refuge in makeshift camps.
High Commissioner AntÃ³nio Guterres said the speed and scale of the crisis is posing huge challenges for the Government and the humanitarian community, while highlighting the urgent need for more resources.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which holds some $450 million in reserve to allow the world body quick access to life-saving funds in sudden crisis, has allocated more than $8 million to fund humanitarian projects for people affected by the military operations in north-western Pakistan.
WFP will receive $2.8 million of the allocation to provide full food rations to those displaced for one month. Another $2.15 million will bolster UNHCR efforts to provide household items such as blankets and cooking utensils to people living in camps.
Some $1.9 million will go towards the provision of emergency health care, safe water and hygiene to the families who have been displaced, and the remainder will go to psycho-social programmes for children and a project to strengthen measures ensuring the safety and security of aid workers in the area.
A humanitarian appeal for Pakistan that was launched in September 2008 has so far received 47 per cent of the $166 million required, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).