Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pakistan: Over 100,000 people displaced by fighting in north-west Pakistan

Displaced girls at Jalala camp collect food from a central distribution centre. Photo: UNHCR/H.Caux

UN - 30 March 2012The United Nations refugee agency reported today that more than 100,000 people have become displaced since January by Pakistani military operations against militant groups in the north-western part of the country that borders Afghanistan.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 101,160 people, mostly women and children, have been uprooted by the fighting that began on 20 January in the Khyber Agency region of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).

“New arrivals say that they left their homes because of the proximity of fighting and due to instructions by the authorities to evacuate the area,” a UNHCR spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told reporters in Geneva.

She said a recent increase in the intensity of the fighting is driving even larger numbers of families to flee to the safety of the Jalozai camp, where UNHCR is registering them and providing them with basic humanitarian supplies.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food aid in Jalozai, located near the western city of Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which was formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province.

UNHCR has been registering an average of 2,000 families per day since mid-March. All of those registered were provided with a UNHCR aid package, a hygiene kit from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and an initial one-month food supply.

There are some 62,818 people currently in the Jalozai camp, of which 47,134 were living in the camp before 17 March. Ms. Fleming noted that this is now the largest camp for internally displaced persons in Pakistan.

This is not the first time that a Pakistani military offensive has uprooted such large numbers of civilians. More than two million people were displaced by similar clashes between Government troops and militants in north-west Pakistan in 2009, leading to one of the largest displacement crises in the world.