UN High Commissioner for Refugees scales up aid to thousands fleeing Pakistan’s latest conflict zone


Islamabad: This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva. Further information can be found on the UNHCR websites, www.unhcr.org and www.unhcr.fr, which should also be checked for regular media updates on non-briefing days.

UNHCR is scaling up its help to people fleeing recent fighting in north-western Pakistan. This decision comes after a UN assessment visit last weekend to Kurram agency along the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Central Kurram agency is the latest theatre of Pakistan military operations against insurgents. The fighting, which started in late June, has forced people to flee their homes in eight villages across an area of 80-square-kilometres.

Local authorities believe up to 12,000 families (around 84,000 people) could be displaced by the operation. Over the past two weeks, more than 700 families have sought re fuge in a new camp set up by local authorities in the Durrani area in Sadda town of Lower Kurram. The New Durrani camp is located about 30 km from the conflict zone. Local authorities have registered another 8,000 displaced families staying with local urban communities. An additional 200 families are sheltering in a school in Sadda town. Some of those staying with host families are likely to move to the camp soon.

UNHCR has already provided initial assistance of 700 tents, 200 family kits of emergency supplies, and a portable warehouse to the local disaster management authority. We have agreed to step up our efforts following the weekend mission. In the coming days, we will deploy expert site planners and camp managers to New Durrani camp and work with local authorities and NGOs to provide hot meals, build kitchens, pitch tents and distribute firewood. We will also fund and provide technical support for a computer-based registration process for displaced people staying in and outside of the camps. Meanwhile our staff will continue to provide tents and other relief supplies to displaced people in the camp.

Kurram Agency borders eastern Afghanistan and the restive tribal areas of Orakzai, Khyber and North Waziristan in north-western Pakistan. It has been wracked by conflict in recent years, fuelled by long-standing sectarian tensions and an influx of militants from neighbouring areas.
In 2010, some 130,000 people had already fled Lower Kurram and taken refuge in the districts of Peshawar, Kohat and Hangu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Most are still unable to return due to simmering tensions in their home areas.

In the past three years, more than 4 million people have been displaced in successive waves of conflict between government forces and militants in north-western Pakistan. While the vast majority has since returned home, some 400,000 people from South Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram,
Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur tribal areas remain displaced. Most of these people live among host communities in Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Peshawar,
Tank and Hangu areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but around 57,000 people still live in four camps.

For further information, contact:
Ariane Rummery
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Islamabad, Pakistan
Cell: +92 300 500 1133