Pakistan’s flood survivors need stronger support, stresses UN refugee chief

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in Pakistan

16 September 2010 – As the United Nations prepares to launch a revised appeal for funds to tackle Pakistan’s devastating flood crisis, the world body’s top refugee official today urged the international community to provide stronger support for the victims of the disaster.

The floods, which began in late July, are the worst disaster in living memory for the South Asian nation, resulting in the death of more than 1,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

“This is unprecedented. Nobody was prepared for such a level of destruction and for such difficult conditions for the people affected,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said after a two-day visit to the flood-affected areas.

“Everybody is doing their best, but the best everyone is doing cannot match the dramatic needs that we are facing,” he stated, appealing to the international community for “a stronger engagement and stronger support for us all to do better and to do more.”

Mr. Guterres visited flood-affected Afghan refugees and Pakistani villagers in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK), one of the worst-hit areas.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that over 4.3 million people in the province are affected by floods and over 192,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.

“A lot of progress has been made, but the way ahead is still long,” said Ahmed Warsame, head of the provincial sub-office of the UN refugee agency, known as UNHCR. “We need to ensure that we meet the needs of all flood-affected communities and reach out to those most vulnerable to ensure they have access to humanitarian assistance.”

Nearly 1.7 million people in the province have received access to clean drinking water thanks to the efforts of UN agencies and their partners. Over 1 million people have received emergency shelter in the form of tents and tarpaulins, and more than 1.2 million have essential medicines.

Mr. Guterres met Afghan refugee elders in the devastated Azakheil refugee settlement in KPK’s Nowshera district, which once housed more than 23,000 refugees but is now completely destroyed, according to UNHCR.

Azakheil is one of 16 Afghan refugee villages across Pakistan to be destroyed or badly damaged in the floods. The High Commissioner told the elders he had been reassured by senior Pakistani officials that the flood-displaced Afghan refugees would not be forced to repatriate.

In addition, he visited the village of Khat Karoona Saidabad, which lies between the Swat and Jinda rivers in Charsadda district. The small community of 56 families was badly hit by the floods; not a single house remains untouched and most are totally destroyed.

UN agencies and their partners received 67 per cent of the nearly $460 million sought as part of the initial Pakistan flood response plan to carry out relief efforts. A revised plan will be launched tomorrow in New York.

To date, donors have provided about half of the $120 million that UNHCR appealed for in August.

“My hope is that the international community will understand the needs and fully correspond to the dramatic situation,” said Mr. Guterres.


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