UN chief condemns terrorist attack in northern Pakistan

Women visit UNFPA-supported clinic in Pakistan serving internally displaced persons (IDPs)

9 June 2009 – Secretary-General Ki-moon strongly condemned today's deadly terrorist attack on a hotel in northern Pakistan, with a staff member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) among those killed.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban is saddened by the large number of people killed and wounded in the attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in the city of Peshawar.

He said that Aleksander Vorkapic, the UNHCR employee who died in the attack, was part of an emergency team recently sent to Pakistan to assist with the current displacement crisis in the South Asian nation's north-west.

“Once again, a dedicated staff member of the United Nations is among the victims of a heinous terrorist attack which no cause can justify,” the statement said.

On the humanitarian front, UNHCR said that it continues to extend its shelters to accommodate the flood of displaced people in north-west Pakistan, while a growing numbers of pregnant women uprooted by the military offensive against militants in the region are seeking essential medical care.

Among the over 2 million people displaced by the conflict are an estimated 70,000 pregnant women, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), with more than 250 giving birth every day and as many as 40 facing potentially life-threatening complications that call for skilled medical help.

A 19-year-old from Buner in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) last week became the first woman to give birth at one of five UNFPA-supported reproductive health clinics in camps for the displaced after walking 50 kilometres in two days to reach the Yar Hussein camp in Swabi district.

Another four clinics – at Sadbarkaly camp in Lower Dir, PIMS field hospital at Jalozai camp in Nowshera, Jalala camp in Mardan and Palosa camp in Charsadda – are receiving a steady increase in patients as word of the services spreads through the camps.

Each site has a delivery room, a supply store and an outpatient clinic offering reproductive health care for women, as well as a full range of basic health services for the entire community, with a live-in staff who are on call 24 hours a day.

With some 90 per cent of the displaced sheltering among host communities across NWFP, UNFPA has ordered obstetric equipment and reproductive health supplies for four local health facilities to help alleviate the strain.

“The trauma that women suffer when they are displaced greatly increases the risks of pregnancy and childbirth,” warned Daniel B. Baker, UNFPA Representative in Pakistan.

“We need to make sure that good quality, lifesaving care is available when women need it the most – which is now,” he stressed.

As part of the joint UN $543 million appeal to support the displaced, launched on 22 May, UNFPA has asked donors for $3.9 million to provide maternal, neonatal and child health care and psychosocial support for the next six months, but just 25 per cent of total sought has been received to date.

Meanwhile, UNHCR said that it was continuing to search for land to develop more camps to shelter the rising numbers of displaced.

“Our field teams report that more and more people who have been staying with host families, with relatives or in schools are now arriving in camps,” UNHCR spokesperson, William Spindler, told reporters in Geneva.

He said that the two new camps which opened last week have almost reached their full capacity, with Sugar Mill in Charsadda housing 2,800 people and Larama in Peshawar 4,800 people.

UNHCR said that some 235,000 people are now staying in 21 organised camps in NWFP, according to local authorities, plus around 100,000 people are housed in camp-like conditions in schools and other government buildings.

“UNHCR wants to scale up its assistance to people staying outside of camps, and is procuring more relief items,” said Mr. Spindler, adding that the agency urgently needs $67 million for its operation in Pakistan until the end of the year.


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