28 May 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference to launch revised humanitarian response plan for pakistan


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today launched a revised appeal for $543 million to meet the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons in Pakistan, Under-Secretary-General John Holmes said today at Headquarters.


Mr. Holmes, who is also United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the appeal had been launched this morning by Antonió Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Permanent Representative of Pakistan.  The revised Humanitarian Response Plan was meant to deal with the “very volatile and fluent situation” resulting from the rising number of internally displaced persons.  Over the last few weeks, some 1.9 million internally displaced persons had joined an existing half million, bringing the total to 2.4 million, 90 per cent of whom were staying with families, communities or in public facilities.  Adding to concerns about the growing numbers -- 120,000 of whom were in camps -- was the expectation that Government military operations might soon start in Waziristan.


As no information was available about people currently in the conflict zone, he called on all parties concerned to respect international humanitarian law, in particular those relating to the protection of civilians.  The humanitarian response was using the “cluster” system”, in which 12 new camps had been built over the last three weeks.  Mobile teams and stationary clinics were used to meet health-care needs.  Some 1.4 million litres of water were being distributed, and latrines were being built.  A matter of concern was that people coming from the higher valleys were not used to the extremely high temperatures, which could reach 42 degrees centigrade.


Mr. Holmes said efforts must be scaled up to raise the $543 million required to cover assistance through December, on the assumption that 1.5 million people would be displaced, of whom some 200,000 would be in need of assistance.  Only 21 per cent of the required resources had been covered so far, $17 million of which had come from the Central Emergency Response Fund.  While the $114 million currently available could only cover one month, the Pakistani authorities, as well as families and communities, were responding generously, which put a big strain on them.


Responding to questions, he said the appeal had taken place this morning and had been attended by some 80 to 90 Member States.  The Government of Pakistan was launching a separate appeal for reconstruction and contributing significantly to relief efforts.  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also had its own appeal, for which there was no exact figure, but a “best estimate” could be revised upwards or downwards as the situation evolved.  At the moment, there were 26 camps for internally displaced persons, which were already overcrowded.


Asked about landmines which might hamper returns, he said there was no information about returns as yet, but concerns about returnees included landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as destroyed infrastructure and a lack of water and electricity in areas that had witnessed armed conflict.  $30 million was needed for early recovery.  Another matter of concern was that no crops could be harvested in conflict areas, which gave rise to food aid requirements, even as the monsoon season approached rapidly.  As for mechanisms to help families sheltering internally displaced persons, the issue was to identify them first and then decide how to assist them.


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