Pakistan’s displaced cross 500,000 mark, Rs.1 bn released for relief (Lead, Changing dateline)

May 12th, 2009 - 11:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 12 (IANS) With the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the fighting in Pakistan’s restive northwest crossing 500,000, the government has released Rs.1 billion ($12.4 million) for their immediate relief, as the UN relief agency appealed for massive international aid to cope with the crisis.
The relief agency said in Geneva Tuesday it had so far registered 501,496 IDPs who had fled the fighting in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Information and Broadcasting Secretary Ashfaq Gondal told reporters here Tuesday that Rs.500 million each was released on May 6 and May 9 as a cash grant.

This apart, tents, blankets, plastic mats, jackets and mosquito nets worth Rs.98.4 million and ration packets worth Rs.8 million have been provided for the IDPs.

A special support group has also been created to coordinate the relief efforts of the defence forces, the civil administration, donor agencies and NGOs, he added.

Separately, the Foreign Office has established a cell to coordinate international relief, APP reported.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Director General (Economic Coordination) Abdul Mateen Khan has been appointed the “focal person” to supervise the cell’s functioning.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres said in a statement issued in New York and in Geneva that the speed and scale of the displacement required an immediate international humanitarian response.

“These are the same people who for decades showed great generosity to millions of Afghan refugees,” the statement said, adding: “Now it is time for the international community to show them the same generosity by supporting humanitarian programmes for the Pakistani displaced.”

Authorities in Pakistan have registered more than 360,000 IDPs who have fled Swat, Buner and Lower Dir since the military went into action against the Taliban late last month after the militants violated a much-panned peace accord with the North West Frontier (NWFP) government.

“I call on the international community to support the overall humanitarian effort on behalf of displaced Pakistanis,” Guterres said.

“This is a huge and rapidly unfolding emergency, which is going to require considerable resources beyond those that currently exist in the region.”

On Tuesday, UNHCR airlifted 120 tonnes of additional humanitarian supplies to Pakistan to add to locally sourced items like tents, kitchen sets, jerry cans, sleeping mats and blankets that will be delivered to the IDPs through NGOs and local authorities.

A Boeing-747 cargo plane delivered 14,000 plastic sheets, 10,000 mosquito nets, two large and portable warehouses and 1,500 large rolls of plastic, worth a total of nearly $585,000.

Speaking to a private TV channel in Islamabad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government earmarked locations for the relief camps for IDPs.

“The government will take care of IDPs needs and will try to provide them with the basic amenities,” he added.

Acting President Fehmida Mirza Tuesday said Pakistan’s parliamentarians were committed to resolving the problems the IDPs faced.

Chairing a meeting at the Parliament House here, she noted the MPs had generously donated to the “Speaker’s Relief Fund” created for the IDPs.

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