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The United Nations refugee agency says it is stepping up assistance to thousands of Pakistanis displaced by military operations against the Taliban in South Waziristan.  The U.N. says it will soon distribute tents to families staying with host communities in districts of the North West Frontier Province. 

Fighting between the Pakistan army and Taliban militants in South Waziristan hit a peak in mid-October when the Pakistan army launched an air and ground offensive to dislodge the Islamic militants from their sanctuary.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the conflict zone.  Some are in camps, but most are staying with family and friends.

UNHCR Spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says the agency will distribute some 35,000 tents, worth $6 million, to the displaced pending the final number of confirmed registered families.

"The aid will allow the displaced people to pitch tents in the grounds of households which are hosting them, and alleviate overcrowding," he said. "Tents are on their way from our local stockpiles to Dera Ismail Khan, and distribution will begin in the coming days." 

"Since September, UNHCR has been distributing relief items such as kitchen sets, jerry cans, quilts, sleeping mats to displaced people from South Waziristan.  Some 24,000 families, that is about 175,000 people, have been assisted so far," he added. 

Mahecic says UNHCR's relief effort has been interrupted on several occasions because of problems with security.  But, he adds, distribution is continuing through local partners.

He says UNHCR is supporting the registration of displaced people from South Waziristan.  He says this process is being carried out by the provincial Social Welfare Department, with help from local private aid agencies.

"Some 350,000 people, comprising almost 48,000 families, have now been registered in Dera Israil Khan and Tank, though only 175,000 people or 24,000 families have yet been verified by the National Database and Registration Authority," said Mahecic. 

"The verification process is ongoing but, at this stage, early indications suggest that about 17 percent of families could be ineligible due to multiple registrations.  A further 10 percent are not verified due to problems with their national ID cards, and another 2 percent are deemed not from the areas affected by the military operations," he continued. 

Mahecic says it is important that people, who are not verified, because they do not have their ID cards or do not come from an affected area, have the opportunity to seek redress.  He says so-called grievance desks are being set up at the registration centers to make sure that genuinely displaced people do not fall through the cracks.