Pak seeks help for Baloch refugees
According to the United Nations estimates of the 84,000 internally displaced, 26,000 were women and 33,000 were children.india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 18:25 IST
Pakistan has sought UN help to avert a "nutritional crises" among the 84,000 refugees that have fled the escalating fighting between the army and the nationalists in the restive Balochistan province, acknowledging for the first time that the conflict had displaced these people.
In the past, the government had been rejecting the presence of internally displaced people (IDP) and had prevented aid groups from helping them.
A letter received by the UN office in Pakistan from the Balochistan government said "the UN agencies may carry out nutritional intervention in districts of Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Quetta".
These districts house majority of the IDPs and the remaining are in Sibi and Bolan districts, it said.
The intervention by the UN has, however has been made conditional. The relief operations will be carried out through health facilities in the districts and under the supervision of local authorities, it said.
This is the first official acknowledgment of the deteriorating nutritional situation among internally displaced persons IDPs in Balochistan, Dawn quoted a UN official as saying.
According to UN estimates of the 84,000 internally displaced, 26,000 were women and 33,000 were children.
The issue came in limelight after one of the UN internal assessments revealed that the survival of several thousands children was in great danger.
According to WHO standards, the situation was critical, it said.
Out of them, six per cent was in the state of "severe acute malnutrition".
The assessment revealed that 80 per cent of deaths among the IDPs were children under the age of five whom senior UN official Ronald Van Dijk described as "innocent victims".
The conflict between army and the rebels who demanded autonomy and opposed the construction of army cantonments in the province escalated after the killing of prominent Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti in army action in August this year.
The province continued to witness periodic bomb blasts and rocket attacks disrupting normal life.
UN in response has approved a one million dollars humanitarian relief package for six months to address this crisis.
The package includes immediate setting up of 57 supplementary feeding centres and three therapeutic feeding centres in the three districts, provision of food, medicine and nutrition for children, blankets, water purification and sanitation equipment and technical assistance.
Unicef will carry out the relief operation, while the UNDP, the WHO, the UNFPA, the WFP and the UNHCR will support it.
The government decision to involve the aid agencies comes after intense persuasion by the UN to accept humanitarian assistance for the displaced people in the province.