GENEVA, 23 October 2009 – As conflict moves to the tribal area of South Waziristan, UNICEF and partners are working to ensure that displaced children from the troubled region receive the support and protection they need. Over 139,000 people have left the remote, insecure border regions to date, about 57,600 of them in the past week, in the latest in a series of conflict-driven displacements in Pakistan since August 2008. Lack of humanitarian access makes it impossible to reach those remaining in South Waziristan, but UNICEF has been supporting children and women in host districts to meet their immediate needs.
“Most of those displaced are women and children,” says Luc Chauvin, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF in Pakistan. “They have already lived through years of insecurity in one of the remotest and poorest parts of Pakistan which has left them especially vulnerable. Now, we must ensure they are protected from the effects of poor nutrition, sanitation and disease, not to mention the terrible upheaval of displacement and violence.”
To date, UNICEF, working with partners on the ground, has ensured that more than 45,000 displaced people have safe water by rehabilitating water supply systems and installing handpumps. About 35,000 have received hygiene kits and water storage containers to protect themselves from waterborne diseases. Earlier this month, nearly 180,000 children from South Waziristan and host communities were immunised against measles, many reached by vaccinators for the first time in their lives. UNICEF has the capacity to extend these interventions to the newly displaced and to any families that leave the conflict area in the coming weeks.
UNICEF is also planning to support malnourished children and pregnant women and will provide school supplies to help children return to school as soon as possible. Coming from an area where less than a third of children are enrolled in primary school – and only 12 per cent of girls – bringing children to school and keeping them there is a priority. Child rights monitoring has begun in DI Khan and Tank Districts where most IDPs have taken refuge, and local government officials are being trained in child protection in emergencies.
UNICEF remains committed to providing essential services and supplies to all children and women affected by conflict in Pakistan. This includes not just those newly displaced from South Waziristan, but all those struggling in the aftermath of earlier phases of conflict, whether they remain displaced or have returned home. Displacement peaked at 2.7 million people, of whom 1.65 million have since returned home.
UNICEF strongly urges all parties to take immediate steps to ensure that children are protected from the effects of armed conflict, and to ensure safe passage to aid workers and life-saving supplies.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York,
Tel + 1 212 326 7426