At the peak of the crisis last year, about 2.3 million people, mainly in north west Pakistan were uprooted by fighting, resulting in the biggest number of people made homeless in recent times. Most of these people have now gone back to their homes. But still many are stuck in refugee camps or in cramped conditions staying with other families. Hundreds of thousands more have also had to flee as the Pakistani army moves against other Taliban strongholds along the Afghan border. The United Nations warned on Thursday that providing basic humanitarian relief for the Pakistanis made homeless by the conflict is likely to prove a major challenge in 2010. "We expect some returns, but there will also be people who will remain displaced as they have nowhere to go back to as their homes have been destroyed," said Manuel Bessler, head of the United Nations office responsible for emergencies. "We also expect fresh displacements in other areas as hostilities continue and it will be a challenge for us to keep funding for this on-going displacement in the pipeline," he told Reuters news service from Islamabad. He added that dealing with the needs of those who return to the conflict-affected areas will be yet another bridge to cross.
More than 1,000,000 homeless people in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province are already getting help from the UN as well as national and international aid agencies. But continuing to provide basic relief such as shelter, food and water for the displacement this year, as well as dealing with the needs of those returning to conflict-affected areas, would be a struggle, the UN warned. "There is an impression that everything is okay as a lot of the focus was on areas like Swat and Buner districts where many people have returned and the situation is much better," said Bessler. "But I am afraid that other areas, where we are seeing thousands of families being displaced in places like Bajaur and Orakzai, will get less attention, which means less funding, which means it could jeopardise our humanitarian activities."
Aid groups along with the Pakistan government will launch an appeal in mid-January for funds for 2010. Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during his visit to the North West Frontier Province on Thursday promised a massive government relief package for the terrorism-hit areas of the province.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children