A million people displaced in Pakistan, says UN

May 8th, 2009 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Geneva, May 8 (DPA) UN humanitarian agencies said Friday that the recent outbreak of violence in the northwest of Pakistan would lead to a total of one million people eventually being displaced.
In the last few days, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said between 150,000 and 200,000 people reached safer zones, escaping the renewed violence. Another 300,000 are said to be on the move.

In August last year, 550,000 people fled the tribal areas and North West Frontier Province when fighting raged and have not since returned.

“The new arrivals are going to place huge additional pressure on resources,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva.

His teams in the field were reporting that the roads out of the Swat and Buner regions were “full of traffic” as people fled, in many cases with “little more than the clothes on their backs”, Redmond said.

UNHCR was setting up centres along the roads to provide the refugees with food and water as they made their escape. They were also working on arranging camps and other humanitarian assistance for those in need.

The total number of displaced people could go even higher, to 1.3 million, said UNICEF, the UN Children Fund.

“The majority of the worst affected are children,” the fund said.

It was providing water and hygiene kits to the internally displaced and trying to locate orphans, unaccompanied children and single-parent families on the run.

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said they had lost their access to the most dangerous areas owing to the volatile situation.

“Humanitarian organisations like the ICRC must be given safe and unimpeded access to the affected population,” Pascal Cuttat, the ICRC head of mission in Pakistan, said in a statement.

The UN was also reporting trouble in gaining access to some areas.

The World Food Programme (WFP) was aiming to feed 600,000 people, but said that was going to be difficult as only 15 percent of the displaced were in camps and the rest were scattered around.

By using local charities, the WFP said it was still successful in getting food to some of the most affected areas.

Fighting has flared up in recent days after the virtual collapse of a three-month-old peace deal between Taliban fighters and the regional government.

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