UN seeks $454 million for Pakistan refugees

May 22nd, 2009 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 22 (DPA) The UN appealed Friday for $454 million in extra aid to help the refugees fleeing Pakistan’s latest offensive against Taliban militants in the country’s north-west.
Nearly 1.5 million people have been displaced by this month’s intense fighting in the Swat valley and the neighbouring districts of Buner and Dir, where the Taliban had gained control over large areas. Another 500,000 were uprooted last year.

Martin Mogwanja, the acting UN humanitarian coordinator, said in Islamabad that $88 million had already been provided or committed by donors, but $454 million in extra funds were urgently needed to run 165 projects for the refugees.

“We are calling for generous support from the international community,” Mogwanja said. “The scale of this displacement is extraordinary in terms of size and speed and has caused incredible suffering.”

Around 10 percent of the internally displaced people have been provided shelter in refugee camps, while the rest are staying with relatives or hired private accommodation.

Pakistan said Thursday that Western countries had already pledged $224 million, including $110 million from the US, for the relief and rehabilitation of the war refugees.

Hina Rabbani Khar, a government minister overseeing the relief efforts, told reporters after a donors conference attended by representatives of foreign countries and aid groups that Pakistan itself would spend $100 million on the displaced.

The military announced a full-scale operation in Swat May 8 after a peace agreement collapsed in the face of the Taliban’s advance to within 100 km of the capital Islamabad. Deadly clashes erupted in Buner and Dir in late April.

Nearly 1,100 insurgents and up to 60 soldiers have been killed in the operation, which the government says is meant to completely clear the area of Taliban militants.

The military operation so far enjoys broad political and public support, but that could vanish quickly if the displaced people were not taken care of.

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