UNICEF Regional Director meets children and families displaced by conflict in Pakistan
JALALA CAMP, Pakistan, 21 May 2009 – The hot summer sun beats down on Dan Toole as he walks around Jalala Camp. The UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Mr Toole is here to see the children’s agency support for those affected by the biggest population displacement in Pakistan's history.
Since 2 May 2009, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting between militants and government forces in Malakand Division in north-western Pakistan. This massive displacement has stretched government, UN and local communities’ resources to the utmost. Several new camps have had to be quickly established to accommodate it. The newly displaced people add to a pre-existing population of 555,000 people living in camps and with host communities who have fled from fighting since August 2008. Of the two million people presently displaced, more than half are children.
"Many of the people here have left behind everything they owned," Mr Toole said. "Given the numbers of people involved, quickly deploying assistance and resources to where they are most needed has meant the difference between life and death for millions. This includes basics like safe drinking water, nutritional support, and vaccinations to prevent diseases from spreading like wildfire in crowded camp conditions."
At the camp Mr Toole visited the children and women benefiting from UNICEF supported interventions such as water and sanitation, education, health and child protection. He met school girls, visited a child friendly space and met displaced families.
Jalala Camp is one of the 23 camps where more than 220,000 displaced people have sought refuge. Here and at other camps, UNICEF works with the provincial government and other partners to provide essential services for children. Over 25,000 people benefit from comprehensive medical services, and 37,000 children have been vaccinated against measles. In pre-existing camps, 31,000 children have been screened for malnutrition and provided supplementary or therapeutic feeding if need be. Similar programmes are soon to be launched in the newly established camps.
Through UNICEF support, drinking water and sanitation facilities help prevent outbreaks of disease amongst 112,000 people. Schools and child-friendly spaces provide familiar routines and psychosocial support for children, and trained workers work to provide counselling, information and support. A registration drive has also identified families and children in particular need of support, such as unaccompanied children.
About 80 per cent of displaced people are living with friends and relatives or using their dwindling savings to rent accommodation. The sudden influx of thousands of displaced people has severely strained basic social services and infrastructure in host communities, which also need urgent support to prevent deteriorating services and additional strain on host families.
During his three-day visit to Pakistan, Mr Toole also met government officials at a federal and provincial level and discussed how best UNICEF and government can work together to protect children from the violence and unrest which has overcome their homeland.
"Despite limited resources, security issues and a rapidly changing situation we have made a good start," said Mr Toole. "In this interconnected world, it is a global necessity to work together and ensure that children displaced by conflict are supported through these difficult times, and can build lives of health, security and opportunity. With sufficient support and resources, we hope to achieve just that."
To continue assisting and expand its support to the displaced children and women till the end of the year, UNICEF urgently needs over US$ 40 million dollars.