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UNICEF Regional Director meets children and families displaced by conflict in Pakistan

© UNICEF Pakistan/2009/Paradela
UNICEF Regional Director Dan Toole and Programme Communication Officer Shandana Aurangzeb Durrani, from UNICEF’s Peshawar office, enjoy drawings by children at Jalala camp for displaced people in north-west Pakistan.

JALALA CAMP, Pakistan, 26 May 2009 – The hot summer sun beat down as UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Dan Toole walked around Jalala camp. Mr Toole was here last week to see how UNICEF is supporting those affected by the biggest population displacement in Pakistan's history.

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Since 2 May, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting between militants and government forces in north-west Pakistan. This massive displacement has stretched government, UN and local communities’ resources to the utmost. Many new camps have had to be quickly established to accommodate the influx.

The newly displaced add to a pre-existing population of 555,000 who have fled from fighting since August 2008 and are living in camps and with host communities. Of the more than 2 million people now displaced in this region, more than half are children.

‘Difference between life and death’
"Many of the people here have left behind everything they owned," said Mr. Toole. "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.

“This includes basics like safe drinking water, nutritional support and vaccinations to prevent diseases from spreading like wildfire in crowded camp conditions," he added.

At the camp, Mr Toole visited children and women benefiting from UNICEF-supported interventions in water and sanitation, education, health and child protection. Among other stops, he met with schoolgirls, visited a child-friendly space and spoke with displaced families.

Providing essential services
Jalala is one of the 23 camps where more than 220,000 displaced people have recently 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 the other, pre-existing camps, 31,000 children have been screened for malnutrition and provided supplementary or therapeutic feeding as needed. Similar programmes are soon to be launched in the newly established camps.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2009/Paradela
In Jalala camp, schoolgirls tell Regional Director Dan Toole they are glad to continue their education in the UNICEF-supported camp school.

Schools and child-friendly spaces in the camps provide familiar routines and psychosocial support for children, while trained aid workers provide counselling, information and support. A registration drive has identified families and children – including unaccompanied children – who are in particular need of support.

About 80 per cent of those who have been displaced in north-west Pakistan are living with friends and relatives or using their dwindling savings to rent accommodations. 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.

Need for emergency funding
During his three-day visit to Pakistan, Mr. Toole met with government officials at the federal and provincial levels, discussing how UNICEF and the government can work together to protect children in the conflict areas.

"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 and expand its support to the displaced children and women of north-west Pakistan through the end of the year, UNICEF urgently needs over $40 million dollars in emergency funding.




20 May 2009: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports Regional Director Dan Toole’s visit to the Jalala displacement camp in Mardan district, north-west Pakistan.
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