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Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson visits Pakistan and requests aid for the conflict-affected

© UNICEF Pakistan/2008/ Mogwanja
Hilde Johnson talks to girls at Katcha Garhi camp school in Peshawar.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 3 December 2008 – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Hilde F. Johnson, visited Pakistan this week where she discussed UNICEF programmes with government ministers and held discussions with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), donors and the beneficiaries of the agencies' programmes in the country.

During a visit to the UNICEF-supported Katcha Garhi camp in Peshawar, Ms. Johnson had the chance to meet some of the thousands of families who have fled conflict in Bajaur Agency, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. She met girls who had their first opportunity to attend school while in the camps. Ms. Johnson also helped to administer polio vaccines as part of a campaign to immunise all Pakistani children under the age of five.

Ms. Johnson met the Governor of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Owais Ahmed Ghani, where she requested government support in delivering essential services to families displaced by conflict. She noted that over two-thirds of those living in the camps are children and are in need of care and protection in the camps.

"The conflict in north-western Pakistan affects areas of the country where the people, especially children, already suffered from a lack of services and development," she said. "In the IDP camps, we have both an imperative to support children – the defenceless victims of conflict – and an opportunity to deliver health and education services that they could not avail before."

Reaffirming UNICEF's commitment
In addition to high-level discussions with cabinet ministers in Islamabad, Ms. Johnson had the opportunity to meet some of the children and women whose lives UNICEF programmes have touched.

Shahzadgai Yousuf, a 28-year-old mother living in Katcha Garhi camp, told Ms. Johnson how her family had been forced to abandon their village and all their belongings in Bajaur – they could not even take their warm clothes. Her husband and their nine-year old son had set up a shoe-shining stall in a marketplace, while another daughter helped with household chores.

Her elder children had never been to school, Ms. Yousuf said, but with the encouragement of women mobilisers from a UNICEF implementing partner, she had enrolled her five-year-old daughter Samina in the Katcha Garhi camp school.

"Hearing from the residents of Katcha Garhi, like Shazadgai Yousuf, who are benefiting from our work in the IDP camps, it becomes even more important to reaffirm UNICEF's commitment to helping Pakistan's children, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve their full potential through health, education, protection, and a healthy environment," said Ms. Johnson.



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