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Crisis in sight as UN agencies phasing out relief for IDPs

By Zulfiqar Ali 2015-08-05
PESHAWAR: The UN agencies are gradually `phasing out` relief activities for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Fata due to inadequate funding and restriction on access of humanitarian staff.

Official sources told Dawn that the Unicef had already abandoned activities at Togh Sri Camp in Hangu district and Jalozai Camp in Nowshera district.

They said the Unicef had stopped running education and child protection programmes in both areas due to shortage ofresources.

A staff member of the UNHCR Peshawar offices told Dawn that the flow of funds for IDPs had dwindled humanitarian activities since the international community shifted focus from Pakistan to Syria and subsequently relief agencies had started abandoning operations.

`Definitely funding is an issue, which is affecting relief activities,` the official said, adding like Unicef, UNHCR will also stop assisting IDPs.

The UNHCR has been providing shelter and non-food items to IDPs living in camps and with host families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In a statement, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said the humanitarian community had received $197 million against the required amount of $433 million to fund relief programmes for IDPs.

The statement issued on Tuesday said the humanitarian community launched the Humanitarian Strategic Plan in January 2015 to support the displaced and returning families.

`The plan aims to mobilise $433 million. So far, only $197 million has been secured and out of it, the government of Pakistan has contributed around $60 million in wheat through the World Food Programme,` the statement said.

The looming financial crises have worried humanitarian agencies as well as local authorities about the future of IDPs. Various humanitarian agencies, including international non-governmental organisations, have been assisting around 283,463 displaced families from Fata.

Currently, return of IDPs to Khyber and North and South Waziristan agencies is underway.

The government has worked out a tentative plan to send all IDPs back to their homes in Fata by the end of 2016.However, the repatriation process is moving ahead at a slow pace, especially for North and South Waziristan agencies.

Officials said only 4,000 of the total of 102,566 North Waziristan families verified by the National Database and Registration Authority had returned to their homes since March 31 this year.

`Return of IDPs may not complete by the end of 2016 keeping in view the slow process of repatriation as military operation is still going on in some areas,` said an official.

He said the UN had been running the entire relief operation and that shortage of funds might create crises if humanitarian agencies abandoned jobs as the government had no resources to fulfil basic needs of IDPs.

The UNOCHA statement said the need assessment carried out in Bara area of Khyber Agency showed that nearly one third of Bara returnees didn`t have access to health facilities; child malnutrition rates were at `emergency level`, and there were large-scale damages to physical infrastructure, including school buildings.

It said the returning IDPs needed assistance to rebuild their houses and livelihoods, while support was required to ensure provision of health, education and other services.

Separately, the UNHCR is winding up relief activities at Togh Sri Camp from August 31 due to restriction on the movement of its local and expatriate staff members.

Officials said the UNHCR staff had been denied access to the camp for the last one year due to security reasons and that the Fata Disaster Management Authority had been informed about it.

The camp is hosting displaced families from parts of Orakzai and Kurram agencies, which have not been denotified as conflict zones.

Officials said Togh Sri was not safe for the workers of international humanitarian bodies and therefore, authorities had restricted their access to the area.

Following intimation from the UN refugee agency, the FDMA had started relocation of 84 displaced families to New Durrani Camp in Kurram Agency.

A proposal is under consideration to relocate 700 families, which belong to upper and lower tehsils of Orakzai Agency, from Togh Sri to Jalozai Camp.

`Our staff has not been allowed to visit Togh Sri for the last one year, which forced the UN agency to abandon operation there,` said a humanitarian worker dealing with IDPs.

He said UNHCR would close relief operation by the end of August whether the government relocated IDPs from Togh Sri or not.