UN agency distributes 35,000 tents to Pakistanis displaced by military offensive

A displaced man from South Waziristan collects a package of aid from UNHCR

31 December 2009 – The United Nations refugee agency has rushed assistance to hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis driven from their homes by an intense military assault against militants in South Waziristan since October, including around 35,000 tents and 54,000 aid kits.

Since the Government offensive picked up pace in the rugged border region with Afghanistan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has distributed blankets, plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, jerry cans, mosquito nets, buckets and hygiene items to internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled to the nearby districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank.

UNHCR calculates that more than 280,000 IDPs – or 38,500 families – remain in the two districts that border South Waziristan to the east.

“It has been very challenging for UNHCR to provide assistance to displaced people in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank due to limited access to the area,” said UNHCR Representative in Islamabad Mengesha Kebede.

“UNHCR tents are a valuable support to the displaced families as they help to resolve over-crowding issues . . . Other relief items like quilts and blankets will help people during winter,” added Mr. Kebede.

After seeing his father die in the crossfire of the military push, a 19-year-old boy Musa Khan, his mother and four brothers joined over 300,000 mostly poor people who escaped the violence and walked to safety in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

“It was around 9 p.m. when our home was hit by mortar fire. My 50-year-old father was killed,” Musa told UNHCR staff at the Indus Colony in Dera Ismail Khan district, where he now lives in a tent with his family.

“We left behind everything, even the body of my father, as it all happened very suddenly,” he said. “He might still be under the debris.”

Musa said he felt uncomfortable in the hustle and bustle of Indus Colony and Dera Ismail Khan town and wants to go back home. “We hope peace returns soon. The first thing I will do after my return will be to search through the rubble of my house for the bones of my father.”

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