The United Nations refugee agency says more than 250,000 people have been displaced by conflict and floods in northwestern Pakistan. The UNHCR is urgently appealing for more than $17 million to help them. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency says the situation in Pakistan's northwestern Frontier is too critical to wait for the funds to appear. It says it already has distributed emergency supplies to some 84,000 affected people.
UNHCR Spokesman, William Spindler, says the agency is supporting the authorities with shelter, registration and camp management.
"According to government figures, there are now an estimated 90,000 internally displaced people in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province due to the ongoing fighting in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Another 90,000 are believed to be displaced in Swat in northern NWFP. This is based on a recent government assessment. On top of that, some 84,000 people were displaced by floods in August. The numbers are fluid as people come and go from their villages, but they are expected to increase as the conflict intensifies."
Spindler says nearly 30,000 displaced people are living in nine official government camps. He says aid workers are training the authorities on how to register them.
He says this involves more than just noting a person's name, age and so on. He says people with so-called special needs must be identified so they can be given appropriate assistance.
He says those who fall into this category include unaccompanied children, female-headed households and the elderly.
"Many of the official camps are located in government schools and lack proper facilities to accommodate the IDPs [Internally Displaced People]. The government has identified the former Afghan refugee village of Katcha Gari in Peshawar as an alternative site. Site planning is underway to set up the necessary facilities, including shelter, water and sanitation, education and health care. To meet these needs, UNHCR has appealed for $17.2 million under the UN's $54 million humanitarian response plan for the situation in Pakistan."
When the emergency began last month, Spindler says the UNHCR emptied its warehouse in Peshawar and distributed tents, plastic sheets, blankets and kitchen sets to tens of thousands of people.
He says the agency is now replenishing its stock and preparing further distributions. He says the United Nations appeal will be revised and adjusted based on the needs on the ground.